The Richest Place on Earth

The richest place on earth is not a bank vault or a gold mine or a collector’s stash of priceless art. I found it today, in an unexpected place.

When Greg and I needed to make a trip south into Arkansas, we seized the opportunity to return to Joplin on country roads. There was a reason we headed into the “boonies”. I wanted to stop at an old cemetery, and walk among the gravestones.

Some people are creeped out by cemeteries. They are, after all, the final resting place for the bodies of loved ones. Their souls are free however and not attached to these places. I find cemeteries fascinating, full of information and stories.

Myles Munroe shares a great perspective about graveyards. He wrote:

“The graveyard is the richest place on the surface of the earth because there you will see the books that were not published, ideas that were not harnessed, songs that were not sung and drama pieces that were never acted.”

The Richest Place on Earth

Concord Cemetery

I’ve been working on my family tree this past year, alternating back and forth between my paternal and maternal lines. Greg has been doing the same. I have the advantage of ancestors buried in cemeteries within 90 minutes of Joplin.

We altered our trip home slightly this afternoon so that I could visit Concord Cemetery in Barry County. This isolated spot is deep in the country, located on top of a hill surrounded by woods. I visited Concord in 1994 with an aunt, or I would never have known about this remote cemetery. Greg and I returned to this small graveyard the next year with two of our kids. On the way home we were involved in a serious car accident that altered my life.

Thankfully I have at last healed from the injuries and chronic pain that the accident caused. However, perhaps because of the negative association with the accident, I never returned to Concord Cemetery, until today.

It appears as it did in 1995…beautiful and lonely, with a restless wind that makes the surrounding trees sway and sigh. Sounds and movements beneath the trees draw my eyes repeatedly but I never see anyone or anything there.

The Richest Place on Earth

Finding Ancestors

My knowledge about my family has broadened since my last trip to Concord. I remembered where my family members are buried, however I wanted to search for gravestones with other surnames connected to my paternal lines. We decided to walk the entire cemetery, row by row.

With temperatures in the 50s and late afternoon sunshine slanting through the trees, walk it we did.

As it turned out, all my ancestors lay grouped together in the oldest part of the cemetery. It was interesting, however, to walk among the stones, reading names and birth/death dates. I remembered the quote about life being lived in the dash between those two dates. So many stories, celebrations, challenges and sorrows represented by a small horizontal line. Rather than feeling sad or morbid about that symbolic – , it made me thoughtful.

I found my people…Lauderdales, Antles and Joneses. In this old resting place I have great-great and great-great-great grandparents. Standing before their tombstones I recall fragments of their stories and long to know more. What brought them to Barry and McDonald Counties in Missouri? Why did they say “Here we will build our lives”? Did their spirits sense my presence and my questions, drawing them to surround me?

The Richest Place on Earth

Fulfilled Lives

We had time to stop by a second family cemetery near the tiny town of Rocky Comfort, in McDonald County. There we walked about a third of this larger graveyard. I quickly located my Lauderdale grandparents, Aunt Roxie, Aunt Glenda and cousin Jeffrey. My dad’s baby sister is buried near her parents. Little Margaret‘s tombstone reminded me that although her life was brief, it had a lasting impact on my father’s family.

Using information from my genealogy research, I located Hills, Kirks, Johnsons and Stipps. These are connected to my family lines. I know the Montgomery branch has a place on my tree as well. I’m still researching that line, which originated from Scotland.

As the shadows grew longer and the wind colder, we slowly moved back to the car. I thought about the words of Myles Munroe. Did any of my ancestors die with their songs still within them? Did they have ideas that they never developed? Dreams that did not materialize?

Beyond the richness of the cemetery, the land of unrealized potential, came a chorus of voices borne on the wind. Hundreds joined my family members, encouraging me onward.

“Enjoy it all. Seize this day…and the next one…and the next one. Don’t fritter life away, caught in regrets or should haves. Go for it.”

What a great cloud of witnesses. And what a powerful reminder to live life, that dash, to the fullest. This is the richest place on earth, indeed. My family, I will be back, to learn more.

The Richest Place on Earth

The Unique Sound of My Ancestry

Late last year, I spit into a test tube and submitted my DNA to Ancestry.com, curious to discover the origins of my ancestors. A few weeks later, I got the results back. As more and more people have tracked their ancestry this past year, by submitting their own DNA, the better the company has been able to refine the results.

The Unique Sound of My Ancestry

Updated Ancestry

Recently I received updated results that better define the regions of the world that my ancestors came from. England, Wales and Northwestern Europe comprise my greatest ethnicity, followed by Ireland and Scotland. These regions appeared on my first set of results. However my updated report listed several new regions while eliminating low confidence areas. The newly added regions included Germanic Europe, Sweden and areas in Central Africa that include Cameroon, Congo and the Southern Bantu Peoples.

I am in the process of exploring my heritage through the Ancestry website, creating a detailed family tree. I’m back seven generations and excited to learn more about my diverse background and the many unique individuals that contributed to me being the person I am.

The Unique Sound of My Ancestry

The Sound of Ancestry

Just this past week, a marvelous opportunity was presented, through a partnership between Ancestry and the online music streaming service, Spotify. They create, for free, an eclectic playlist of songs inspired by each participant’s origins.

I could choose up to five regions, which is precisely the number I have, and Spotify selected four representative songs per area. This is such a clever idea…and I adore cleverness.

I immediately accepted this gracious invitation and submitted my regions to Spotify, who then created a playlist that uniquely captures who I am.

The Unique Sound of My Ancestry

Inspired by My Ancestry

I spend quite a lot of time in the car. The last few days I’ve been listening to the Unique Sound of My Ancestry as I drive. From African chants to the English group Duran Duran to German jazz, my car is filled with a blend of music that is indeed as unique as I am.

I am enchanted. My heart beats faster and my eyes fill with tears. I am beyond grateful for such a beautiful gift.

And I am inspired. I’m inspired and moved by music that represents my heritage, and I am inspired and motivated to not only learn all I can about each of my regions, but to visit them as well.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “Music is the universal language of mankind.”

The world is speaking to me through music as well, and it is a siren call, an invitation. My heart and soul are responding.

The Unique Sound of My Ancestry

Day 5: Go On a Road Trip

I had to get creative today, with the Summer Hygge Challenge. It was not possible to do the activity that I selected, exactly as specified. I could have tossed it back and drawn another folded slip of paper. However, I believe that the “randomness” of selecting the activities is not really random at all. There are deeper lessons to learn. I accepted the activity as the one I was meant to have.

Day 5 Go On a Road Trip

I selected:

Go On a Road Trip

On this busy Monday, with many items on my “to do” list, a road trip was out of the question. I opened up to other possibilities, other ways to experience such a journey.

I considered options. I could watch a movie about a road trip, later in the day. I could go on an adventure in my imagination. Or…I could plan a road trip, one that I could experience at a later date.

That idea appealed to me. And then another thought took that idea and expanded it.

Greg and I both took DNA tests last December, through Ancestry.com. With our combined results, we could offer a complete ancestry picture to our three children. Greg has been busy the last six months building an impressive family tree of his ancestors. He’s gotten back seven generations, and has family lines that originated in Germany, Ireland, England and Scotland.

I’ve barely begun creating my online tree, however I’ve done much research in the past. I can trace family lines back many generations, to countries that include Scotland, Ireland, France, Wales and England, and the regions of Western Europe and Scandinavia.

Ancestry.com provides a wealth of information with the DNA results, including migration maps. Looking at my mother’s line, the Gregorys, and my father’s line, the Lauderdales, I can trace their paths from countries across the ocean to the Virginia and Connecticut areas, and then west to Kentucky and Tennessee, and ultimately Missouri and northern Arkansas.

Day 5 Go On a Road Trip

Greg’s family entered the US via New York and Pennsylvania. He has plotted the migration of his family members west across the Midwest, using a map. His family stayed further north as they moved westward, until they too settled in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma.

What if? What if we planned a road trip that allowed Greg and me to visit the states where our ancestors lived and walked and birthed children and died…as they trekked across America? I’ve been inspired by the television show, Who Do You Think You Are?, on TLC, as people discover their roots and then travel to learn more about their ancestors’ lives.

How amazing it would be to visit the east coast towns where our ancestors first took up residency, and to figuratively walk in their footsteps. I’ve had very few trips out east. It’s time to change that. Driving would allow us to trace Greg’s family routes across the upper Midwest on our journey east, and then follow my family’s trek across the lower Midwest on the return trip.

We have much planning yet to do, and more family research to accomplish, but today we began with excited discussions about where we would go. We intend to focus on several primary family lines, as with each generation back, the number of family lines doubles. However, we would attempt to explore as many ancestral connections as possible. At the conclusion of our road trip we would have info and stories to pass on to our children and grandchildren about their roots.

I’m grateful that I drew an “impossible” activity from my hygge jar. It’s the impossible things that open up new opportunities and show me what is truly achievable.

Day 5 Go On a Road Trip

In My Blood

If you know me well, or visit my home and look at the art on my walls or study my vignettes, one thing you learn about me is this: I feel a strong connection to Scotland. Believe me, I will take opportunities to travel to anywhere in the world, because I love exploring new places. One country though feels like home, every time I visit…Scotland.

I am a Lauderdale by birth, a name that has connections to Clan Maitland in Lauder, Scotland. I have known that part of my ancestry story since childhood. Recently I decided to order a kit through AncestryDNA, spit into the test tube, and see what larger story my DNA told. I got the results back.

Here is the breakdown of my ethnicity:

I am quite a mix of European countries, with a bit of Asian South, which includes the modern day nations of Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan, and a smidge of Caucasus, which includes the nations of Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan.

I am primarily of English, Scottish and Irish heritage, with ancestry connected to Spain, Scandinavia, France, Italy, Greece and Wales. It is no surprise that I am strongly Celtic. Ancestry provides pages of information about my story, including maps that show how my family migrated across Europe and then to the Virginia area of the US, before settling in the Midwest.

The maps and pages of text accompanying them helped me to understand my 44% Europe West. That region includes France and Germany. I do have some French ancestry. It is also where the people who became known as the Celts originated. The Celtic People expanded out and eventually settled primarily into the areas known today as Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.

My DNA confirms what my heart and soul already knew, instinctively. It explains why the sound of bagpipes makes tears come to my eyes and why Scotland feels like home. It is home. It’s where my roots are. It is the place that calls to me continually, and Edinburgh is my favorite city in all the world.

Thirlestane Castle in Lauder, Scotland, home of Clan Maitland. Pic is from their Instagram page.

I am looking forward to learning more about the rest of my heritage. I’ve only just begun to sort through all the information available and according to Ancestry, I have more than 1,000 DNA matches that are 4th cousins or closer in relationship. That’s a lot of new family members to reach out to and get to know.

I’m excited about visiting as many of these regions as I can, knowing I have ancestors who lived there, loved there, and that some journeyed on to new places. I want to return to Ireland and England. And always, there is my beloved Scotland. I will go home as often as I can. It’s in my blood, after all.

Visit Ancestry.com HERE if you would like to know your DNA story!