I’ve been home getting over a stomach bug the last couple of days, so I’ve been able to keep up with my blog reading (love that Google Reader allows me one easy place to keep up with all of them). I was reading today’s post of “Barking Up the Wrong Tree“. There were several quotes collected from various sites, each making claims of famous ancestry, being able to trace their lineage to Adam and Eve; in other words, people who have probably not done a lot of research on their own, and have taken at face value trees other people have created.
One quote in particular stood out:
I don’t need ancestry at the moment because my tree is complete.
This sparked a comment from Lianne Lavoie, who wrote:
Also, people who say their trees are “complete” are hilarious. I’ve never understood quite what they mean. I guess if they don’t care at all about “sideways” genealogy, and every one of their direct lines has reached a point where you can’t reasonably go back any further (eg. with Acadian ancestors, you usually can’t go further than the original immigrants)? I guess there’s a point at which I would call my tree “complete”, but I doubt I’ll get there in a lifetime.
This got me thinking of the nature of trees, and how trees and family trees share many of the same traits. To LLG70 and LinnaeLavoie, my thanks for inspiring this rare midweek post.
I think one can never call a tree “complete”. A tree is a living thing. It has roots that go down deep into the earth, drawing from it water and nutrients to sustain it. From its sturdy trunk, branches come forth, sprouting new growth each season. It is the nature of a tree to grow. A tree without growth will eventually die.
In the same way, a family tree is a living thing. Its roots are our ancestors. They go down through the ages. They are the foundation of the family. Our ancestors, like roots, provide through their lives and histories sustenance, maintaining our place in this world. Their descendants spread out through the years, each generation providing new branches, new leaves, and new growth.
I think that only when the life cycle ends could a tree ever be called “complete”. However, a dead tree will eventually decay; its roots will shrivel, its leaves and branches will fall. It will become nothing more than a stump which will in time be reclaimed by the earth, all trace of it vanishing.
My family tree I hope will never be “complete”. Even if I in my lifetime could ever hope to discover every last root, and find the story for each of my ancestors, the story still would not be complete. For the true story of any family tree lies not only in its past, but in its future as well. The branches of my family tree spread wide, and there are many leaves among those branches.
My own branch will go no further; when my leaf falls, my part of the story ends. However, the branches of my brother and my cousins will go on. Many of their branches have new growth; branches that have forked and started leaves of their own. While my own branch may vanish into history, I can only hope that what I’ve learned keeps the roots of our family tree strong to nourish generations of new branches to come.