Turns Out I’m Digging This Trip into Ancestry Roots

by Celia Rivenbark


I hate to admit it but I haven’t cared much about my genealogy over the years. When someone would drop mentions of this or that long-dead ancestor at a family gathering, I’d just roll my eyes and wander off looking for Oreo pie. Who cares? That was like a bajillion years ago.

So, to be honest, I was only feigning interest when invited to speak in bucolic eastern Virginia and “tour the churches and graveyards of your ancestors.”

A lovely offer, I am sure, but not really my thing.

“Does the hotel have Showtime?” I asked.

“It’s an elegant 18th century B&B.”

“OK, am I, or am I not, going to be able to watch ‘Homeland’?”

Did she just sigh???

After I spoke at the library fundraiser on Friday night, my escort and “distant cousin,” Hannah, arrived at 9 a.m. Saturday to take me on the ancestral homeland tour as promised. I was already lining up a migraine/escape plan because, yes, I am that awful.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the sixth church graveyard. Let me explain. Living in North Carolina, sure, we have relatives, but nobody much cares about who your people are. You’re here. It’s now. Move on.

In Virginia, things are very, very different. At a graveyard beside a winding river, there were huge, tall thingies with my grandmother’s maiden name on them everywhere.

“Hmmm. Cool towers,” I said.
“Those are obelisks,” Hannah gently corrected. Who really knew? Hannah had earlier said “toe-MAH-toe” so, well, I wasn’t sure if I could trust her.

We went to many churches with plaques and stained-glass windows dedicated to the family. Portraits of relatives hung in the courthouse. When introduced to a minister’s wife, she gently framed my face with her hands and said quite solemnly, “You are Baptist royalty.”

Down, girl. I’ve been called a lot of things in my life but NEVER Baptist royalty. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was Methodist. She might have jumped out of one of those stained-glass windows.

As the day wore on, I found myself getting into the spirit of this ancestry stuff. Frankly, royalty has its perks. At a fall festival, I was escorted to the head of the line and given a free funnel cake by a distant cousin. At least 30 people in line glared.

“FFV!” I shouted to them cheerfully. Oh, for heaven’s sake. First Family of Virginia. Did you really NOT know that?

In the span of six hours, I had not only drunk the ancestral Kool-Aid, I was happily swimming in the stuff. When Hannah showed me that I was eligible for the Jamestown Society, I practically gave her a tongue bath.

Back home, I told my friends about all this and their eyes glazed over. I’m determined to embrace my heritage even from hundreds of miles away. Just today, I ordered extra “toe-MAH-toes” on my Nachos Bell Grande. It’s a start.


Rivenbark is the author of seven humor collections. Visit her website at www.celiarivenbark.com. ©2016 Celia Rivenbark. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.