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Family historian

Herstories, Legacy

So you want to be a matriarch

May 20, 2021

Matriarch as a job description is quite daunting. It basically means that you are the oldest female in your family line and the legacy buck starts with you. Many of us are used to being in charge in our household. We often have a loving spouse and children to love and watch out for . There is a wonderful time of life when we fall under another’s matriarchal umbrella If we are fortunate enough to have a wonderful mother then we are fully aware of the shoes we need to fill when the umbrella closes and we are now in charge of their will be rain or sunshine.

My mother (Agnes Jean Knight) was a spectacular matriarch. Agnes ruled her family with no apologies. We were her brood and she carried us along with her on her journey through immigration, education, and personal growth. Agnes educated herself from humble beginnings (rural Jamaica) to post baccalaureate work in New York City. Agnes took a chance and left her birth country for the cold of England in 1959. England in the 50’s was cold in both temperature and racial tolerance. However, Agnes expected much from life and sought success relentlessly. She believed that no goal was out of reach as long as you were willing to work hard for it. I personally believe that it was this level of work that compromised her health and led to her prolonged illness at the end of her life. Finding balance is a trait that plagues all us matriarchs in training.

As a matriarch in training, I have learned many things. I am also open to the fact that I might also be missing some “big picture” aspects of life. Some of the things I know for sure are:

  • Intention counts and informs all of your decisions.
  • Apologizing is a valuable life tool.
  • Time spent with loved ones should be coveted most of all.
  • Education allows you to unlock doors previously closed to you.
  • Graduations can be more important than weddings.
  • You can only be bored if you’re boring.
  • Sleep as much as you can.
  • Tell and document your family’s story so that every member is validated and remembered.

What I’m not to sure about is how to optimize my earth time. Let’s face it there is only so much time and how do you figure out what should be the legacy you leave. Make no mistake, what you create in your family lives on in your descendants. I live a life of privilege due to the hard work of my ancestors. I was challenged recently about what privilege means. My friend was upset because I challenged his definition of privilege. He believes that he got no breaks and everything he has earned was due to his hard work. I challenged his belief because I believe that our ancestors contribute in minor and major ways to our present situations. I believe that those same ancestors make us who we are today. In the case of people descended from slavery between 30 and forty generations contributions were directed to the success of other families. Slavery left a gaping hole in the evolution of so many families. My family have been land owners for over a hundred years and I have traced my DNA back to the African woman that survived that heinous trip across the Atlantic in the belly of a ship. I believe that all my ancestors played some part in the circumstances of my life. Therefore, what I leave to my offspring has a gravitas to it. Legacy is not a casual endeavor.

As a matriarch I hope to embody the values that were passed down to me. Hard work, honesty, diligence, empathy, and stealth have allowed me and mine to survive in an inhospitable environment. We have not only survived. We have flourished. We also lost some of our own along the way. The most powerful trait that I will hold onto and strive to pass on is the ability to love. Meeting each family member as they are rather than what I envision them to be is my life’s work. I wholeheartedly step into my role as matriarch of my family. Besides, I always wanted to wear those big church hats!


Are YOU a Keeper?

August 18, 2020

Years ago I read a story to my class about a young boy who was especially close to his grandmother. He loved to sit by her while she told family stories. The story concluded with the grandmother revealing to her grandson that he was there family’s keeper. While reading that story I realized that I was my family’s keeper and had been for a very long time.

A family keeper is usually a person in the family who:

-Keeps up with all the activities of their inner and outer family circles.

-Archives and maintains important family documents and artifacts (such as apparel, medals, pictures

, jewelry, etc…).

-Creates opportunities for family get togethers and reunions.

Every generation has one if your family is fortunate. Keepers pass down the collective history and help maintain a family’s story. Keepers do not necessarily have to do all these things. They may specialize in one area. While you may have an aunt or an uncle that keeps up with all of these things, most likely there will be a collection of relatives interested in the areas of family preservation that appeals to them. For instance I love to scrapbook family occasions, trace our family tree, maintain the family seat, and travel to visit extended family. I notice that my daughter has no interest in keeping up with family items or document, but she is in constant communication with all the elderly members of our extended family.

There is room for everyone at the keeper table. As a matter of fact, the more people involved in keeping the family history, the better the chance of that history surviving. Wars, family emergencies, job relocation, and tragedy can interrupt the family history at any time. Having many Keepers who communicate with each other is your best bet to insure the survival of your family’s story.

Please see the following links to articles on this sight about why keeping a family history is important.