I love genealogy. I started that relationship with studying a language. For those who know me well, you know I am not the greatest student, which is why my Tagalog is soooooooooooo horrible. It’s laughable and I have to speak slowly. But! I have a good understanding of what is supposed to happen, so I can read and write better than anything coming out of my mouth, and I can tell when Google is wrong.
Tagalog, for me, was an offering to my family. It was my way of saying that I wanted to be a part of my Filipino heritage, and demonstrating that I was willing to claim it. Being only genetically half and not really exposed to Filipino culture as a child, I could go through life and completely ignore that I am Filipino. Most often people assume I’m Latina and on it goes from there.
When I started, something changed when I talked to my Filipino relatives. They loved that I had taken the initiative to take the class. They all realized that it would take complete immersion for me to be any good at the language, especially when they saw the textbook. But, “at least you are trying,” they said.
It wasn’t a far leap for them when I pulled out a pedigree chart and started asking questions about who was who and where they lived. After a few years of that and the gradual development of the Family Search database and program, the testimonies started coming.
Understand that these are people who were raised to be Catholic as part of a Catholic nation, and whether they were still Catholic or not, they are not Mormon. Temples and what happens in them are unknown for the most part. Yet every one of my Filipino relatives older than the age of 30 have at one point or another have expressed to me their belief that the questions I am asking are important that someone needs to record the family history. Most of them express gratitude and support as soon as the words “family history” come out of my mouth.
I don’t think it’s that they want to share their memories. Some stories are not great stories–they are the kinds of stories that are only whispered in the dark. My people are not exactly great people. Sometimes they don’t want to tell me what happened and I have to prove I can understand pain and inhumanity and not judge and be respectful.
What it is is the desire to honor the family. They may hate things about each other, and some have been very mistreated by others. But they honor their family. “They’re family,” they shrug. I am family.
The white people do it too, and I am blessed to have two heritages that are alive and well.
It matters. Where we came from matters. Who we came from matters. Everyday we have the option before us: where do I go from here? How do you know where “here” is if you don’t know from whence you came? We can claim it or not, but the underlying fact is it doesn’t disappear, no matter how we assimilate to something else.
I don’t do family history because I am Mormon. I don’t do family history for numbers, or for anyone else’s gratification. Family history feeds my curiosity and my inspiration.