Genealogy is one of my favorite pastimes. A vice, some would say. I’m so enamored with it that I pay the full membership cost of almost $300 a year to subscribe to ancestry.com! That works out to be about $25 a month. Compared to golfing, coin collecting, and a lot of other hobbies, I get off pretty cheap with it, don’t you think? Soooo…I bit pretty hard awhile back when ancestry.com introduced a new television show, Who Do You Think You Are? As the saying goes, they had me with, “Hello.” I’m totally addicted and can’t wait for each Friday’s episode. I know that it’s an hour-long, very well crafted ad aimed at enticing its viewers to subscribe to ancestry.com; however, since I’m already a very loyal member, I get to just sit back and enjoy it! The premise of the show is to follow along with the celebrity du jour, sometimes to exotic places like Barbados, as he or she talks with genealogists, archivists, and other experts about old records containing vital information regarding their ancestors, discovering along the way some pretty incredible stories of family life “back then.” The show has featured such famous folks as Lionel Richie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Susan Sarandon, Emmitt Smith, Rosie O’Donnell, Tim McGraw, and the list goes on. The featured celebrity isn’t always someone I admire or even like, but the story is always fascinating.
This past Friday’s episode featured movie star Gwyneth Paltrow. To make her long story short, she discovered, as we first visited her Aunt Fran, that there had been a great-grandmother, Ida May, who had “never cooked a meal,” had not cleaned house, had not otherwise been a good mother, and on top of all that, had also been a hoarder. This explained why Gwyneth’s grandfather didn’t talk much about his childhood and held such disdain for his mother. After more searching of records it was discovered why Ida May had been so ill suited for living: her father had died when she was young, and her mother and older brother had died within a few weeks of each other when Ida May was 13, and Ida May herself had tragically lost a three-year-old child only a couple of weeks or so before delivering the baby she was pregnant with at the time. Many of the stories this show features end much happier than this one did, but this one was a horribly sad story, to say the least.
It reminded me of my own maternal grandmother, Mama Bessie, who married a young man, Grover, had a son who died at the age of two after choking on a peanut hull and developing gangrene from its extraction, had a daughter Alice, and lost Grover when Alice was seven months old. She married Mahlon, had miscarriages, once with twins, and had five more children, one of which was my mother, Amy Rose. Grandpa Mahlon died in 1931 when my mother was 14. Mama Bessie married a third time to a man who wasn’t as kind as he could have been to her children. Fortunately, they had none together and he died.
I said all that to say this: Gwyneth’s story ended so sadly, and with no reference to God except that she found on the other side of her family that there were a number of rabbis, one of which was involved in Kabbalah. (She also proudly revealed that she studies Kabbalah. Unless you’re already well versed in Kabbalah, I will leave you to your Googling on that one.) Mama Bessie and her family, on the other hand, may have suffered many struggles and heartbreaks, but the difference in her story and Gwyneth’s ancestors’ is that Mama Bessie loved and trusted Jesus Christ as her Savior. Her children watched her life and mimicked it in many ways. She trusted Him with her life and while she didn’t die a materially wealthy woman, she passed into eternity with her Savior a very rich woman spiritually and with a loving family who to this day tells many stories of growing up at her feet.
Oh, that Gwyneth’s family could know that love. Maybe you’ll join me in praying for that.