Sunday, July 17, 2016

Mitakuye Oyasin

When I was 21 and serving as a Marine Embassy Guard in Yaounde, Cameroon, I found a third cousin in that city. Marie and I met. Our great-great-grandfathers were brothers.

The Llangeryw Yew in North Wales,
estimated to be 4000 years old.
Last year while doing Sons of the American Revolution research, I discovered that a new friend, Kevin, and I had 8x great-grandfathers who were neighbors and served in the same militia unit -- 400 years ago in Hartford, Connecticut.

While doing book research on an 18th-century Knox County sheriff and gunsmith, I learned that a branch of my mother's family had lived on the farm next to his.

Watching a Ken Burns Civil War documentary, I noted an 1860s musical composer with my mother's last name. I went digging and found we had common ancestors.

During lunch with a group of War of 1812 descendants, I talked with the old man sitting next to me and found we were family. He was having the chicken and I was having the beef.

Over coffee with a woman at work who until that day had been just a long-time acquaintance, we chatted about writing and talked about next chapters, and then moved to genealogy. Peggy said her father was from Vincennes and she was going there in October to do some family research.

I mentioned that I'd found a branch of my Root family living next to my Knox County sheriff guy in the early 1800s. She said, "Root, you say? Palmyra Township?" Yes, I said. I wondered how she knew that.

"I have Roots in Vincennes," Peggy said. "In Palmyra Township." I stood and said hello cousin and hugged her.


There's nothing unique about our family. We just benefit from a fairly well-drawn map. Every day, we each pass "strangers" on the street or in the market. If only we had maps that could show us how many of those "strangers" are members of our own family -- close or distant -- we might all be a little more gentle with one another.

Mitakuye oyasin is Lakota for "we are all related." 

Photo credit: Stemonitis [CC BY-SA 2.5)(], via Wikimedia Commons

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