NEW YORK CITY- SEPTEMBER 22:  The Statue of Li...

How did your ancestors come to America?  Very few of us can claim to be descendants of the people who walked from Asia across the land bridge that is now the Bering Sea.  If you are, congratulations.  I personally can only claim residency for just over 100 years.  That does not mean that I have no relatives that live in America before 1900, I just have not found them yet.

My ancestors are almost all European.  That makes it a bit easier for me to track my heritage before the American experience.  I have found that I come from very average people, not poverty stricken and not nobility.  They left Europe to escape the wars, most of them leaving between the Franco-Prussian war and World War I.

There are all sorts of resources available to track your family.  To actually track where you come from is also available.  I am referring to the source of your family, hundreds of generations ago.  I participated in the Geanographic project sponsored by National Geographic.  I sent in a swab from my cheek and they traced my DNA to common sources.  We are all Africans at some point, but my common source is northeastern Europe in the region of Lithuania.

Is any of this important?  It is at least interesting.  In the long run, it is not that important as all of us are related.  We are all human beings, we all eventually have common ancestors.  Knowing where your family comes from, learning the stories, that is what is important.  You can learn more from the decisions your ancestors have made than from any book on ethics, morals, or self help.  You can also learn more about what real life is than the official histories of significant events and famous people.  The birth or death of someone in your own family has much more direct impact on you and you personal development than any politician, movie start or sports hero.

Besides the personal fulfillment that can be found in researching your roots, this type of study provides a cornucopia of ideas for writing.  These are events that are unique to your family, special as only you can portray them.  They are an opportunity to take some of yourself and become part of your past, sharing it with the world through the written word.

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Martin writes about writing in his weekly column Ramblings from Martin.

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