Monday, October 10, 2011

What Is "Family?"

Xiaoming's search for her Jewish ancestor opens the door to broader definitions of "family" than those that are strictly defined by genes.  Based on the information from her mother's DNA test, this elusive great-great-grandfather may not have been a blood relation.  Most people I know also have some relationships that are not so easily categorized.

Sometimes it strikes me that I am so involved with family history when I'm not married and don't have a partner or any children.  Though I have no children of my own, I have two not-quite-stepsons I love dearly.  I'm not only researching their father's family, but also their mother's.  (I'm totally nondiscriminatory when it comes to genealogy!)

I have a half-sister, from my father's first marriage, whom I adore.  I also knew and was friendly with my sister's mother, and I research her family for my sister.

I'm very close to my aunt, who married my mother's brother.  I've done a lot of work on her family history and have shared the information with her sisters, both of whom I know.  One of her sisters asked if I would be willing to research her husband's family.  Of course I said yes.  So my extended family has extended even further.

I consider all of these people to be part of my family, and I include them in my ever-growing family tree.  My point is that "family" is a flexible word, which different people define in different ways, and almost everyone has people in their family who don't fit the normal mold.  That doesn't mean that they aren't important, or that they don't belong.  And if they belong, then they can be documented and researched, and they have a legitimate place within the family tree along with everyone else.

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