Dearly Departed | Piecing together my maternal grandfather’s life story
As a young girl, I read Alex Haley's’ Roots and watched the mini-series countless times. I was captivated by the story of finding who you had once lost. I never imagined that I would have the honor and opportunity to navigate the roots of my very own family tree.
My search started over seventeen years ago at a time when internet research was lackluster at best. Back in the 2000s, the most we had were emails and numbers to reach out to certain historical societies. My search started in Jamaica but soon stopped for financial reasons. I quickly learned digging up family history could be expensive.
Could you imagine finding pieces of you in Jamaica, Panama, and New York City decades before you were ever born? Thankfully, in recent times things have changed, websites like FamilySearch are invaluable tools for genealogical enthusiasts who desire to put the pieces back together again. Over the last three years, I have successfully located my ancestors’ birth certificates, marriage papers, and much more.
Wading through thousands of names was overwhelming and discouraging at times. Eventually, I found my rhythm using “coincidences,” and my gut feeling to guide me through the choppy waters. Finding what/who you have been looking for can usher in new thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I learned that my ancestors were human, made right and wrong decisions, broke hearts, and found the strength to start over again in foreign lands.
By the time I was born my family had settled into their new lives in new lands. As a child my grandparents didn’t transmit much to me by way of who they were,”back home.”
My mother’s father was the first to go. He passed away when I was eight. The official lure was that either his mother was from Panama or that she moved to Panama when he was young. I often heard that my grandfather “Dada,” was a shoemaker and the reason my mother had a shoe obsession as an adult. Besides his love of shoes, it was said that he was a kind, patient and gentle man. As an adult I wanted to know more and as the old saying goes be careful what you ask for.
Dearly Departed is a five part mini-series detailing the first leg of the journey to learn and rediscover my ancestral heritage.
WATCH PART ONE