Gardens and Genealogy

I’m a late bloomer. I didn’t start gardening until I was, well, a mature adult. But now that I have a little dirt under my fingernails, I notice some similarities between gardens and genealogy.

Flexibility is a virtue in both hobbies. I tried unsuccessfully to grow columbine for years, using different soil mixes and planting them in various locations throughout my shade garden. Finally they took root and began to bloom. Kind of like those ancestors who force us to look through land records or tax lists rather than the “easy” census and vital records we know and love.

Plants are not solitary creatures. Neither were our ancestors. My ferns send rhizomes down alongside their roots and between the roots of their neighbors. To split the plants or move them, I must follow the root from the new plant back to the root of the mother plant. To find the parents of our ancestors, we may need to follow a trail through all of their siblings. Clues aren’t limited to direct line ancestors. Some of the best clues I’ve uncovered were waiting in the records of a niece or a brother.

Treasures can be found in the most ordinary of places. The leaves of my Lenten roses are lovely, but the flowers steal the show. I feel that way about passenger lists. I’m amazed at the variety of names and ages, all people traveling to a new land. But when I see my ancestors’ names, the others fade into the background. Going back to those other names later can often result in new clues; relatives from the homeland.

Both gardening and genealogy offer rewards deeper than what they seem on the surface. Gardening brings a sense of accomplishment, beauty and wonder at nature’s gifts. Genealogy brings a sense of belonging to the family of man, a place in history, and a better sense of self.

Sunny summer days are perfect for weeding and watering outdoor trees. Rainy summer days are perfect for searching and growing family trees.

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