I've fallen hard into the land of the dead. My ancestors have taken over my life. Not being a quick learner I have made every novice genealogist error three or more times before I give in and make the same mistake half a dozen times more simply to reinforce my stupidity. I have even invented new ways to screw up.
My family name is a common English/Irish surname. The name was a popular choice among former slaves. The extended family pool of people sharing our last name is huge, and my research is imprecise. According to my first draft our family is a mongrel mix of anglo/irish along with a strain of black German immigrants, with the odd Asian tossed in for good measure. It was a surprise to learn my grandparents passed as black. My second draft looks markedly different. What a ride.
One point this exercise has driven home is how much safer childbirth has become over the past 100 years, for both child and mother. Limbs from my family tree (the parts I can verify) fill cemeteries with children, stillborn or who died within days of birth. I share the name of an older brother who died days after birth, odd yet true. Young mothers who died soon after giving birth fill another large expanse. How many bereft young fathers remarried quickly after their wife's death, solely to have someone to mother his children?
Today is Candlemas Day on the Christian calendar. A Hebrew ritual celebration dating from the time of the book of Leviticus, a new mother was considered unclean until forty days after giving birth, after which she is presented to the congregation and blessed as part of a her purification. The Christian churches draw from that purification imagery, marking 40 days after Christmas, the day of Mary, the mother of Jesus's churching. For believers, the collected blessing of her congregation on the new mother is a welcome custom.
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