It’s been almost a month since I traveled from Pennsylvania to North Carolina to learn more about my maternal line. Since I got back, I’ve been thinking a lot about people I’ve met along the way and the nature of this journey.
Although I’ve approached this research as a writer, my own story is probably too small to constitute a book. I’m not Edward Ball, who wrote Slaves in the Family. Or Chris Tomlinson, who wrote Tomlinson Hill.
There may be small-time slave owners in my family, and African-American relatives, and bigotry, and my own non-European ancestry, but I may never stumble upon a narrative that others would find compelling or uplifting.
What I am, it seems, is a writer who keeps meeting other people who have stories to tell. And even as I struggle with my own narrative – my mother’s bigotry, my family’s secrets, my feelings about the Old South – I am drawn to other people’s stories. Quintessentially American stories, the good and the bad.
And don’t I just go on meeting people who keep me believing that I’m on the right path! Today, at a local authors’ event in suburban Philadelphia, I met two people with ties to North Carolina whose life experience seemed to intersect with mine in some way. This seems to me to be a sign.
A sign that it’s time to open up The Going Down Home Project to other people who have Southern roots that include slavery; people who have moved away from the rural South but still feel its influence in their lives; people whose interest in genealogy has in some way been altered by genetic testing.
It feels right to me at this juncture to find a project collaborator, or to solicit stories from people who’ve delved into their own Southern family histories -- motivated by curiosity, questions or fantasies about identity.
It’s time to invite others to share their stories.
If you have been researching your rural Southern roots, and understand why you’re on this journey, I want to hear from you via mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org