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Ancestry Work and the Sacred Unveiling

This is the discovery of the statue of Antinous, the lover of Emperor Hadrian, occurred in 1894 during the archaeological excavation of the ancient Greek city of Delphi. The statue dates back to 130 AD! As an archaeologist, I often refer back to this photograph, because for me, uncovering my ancestral history feels like this. It takes a tribe to do the work, it can be messy, it is hard work, and sometimes the past reveals itself in ways that feel like magic. This is especially true when conducting archaeological work in the field. Structures unveil as we dig methodically- uncovering what remained from years before. Evidence of the past life the land encountered.

The sacred always shows itself to us when it is time. And when it does, it feels as though confronted with nothing human nor cosmic; one senses our profound nothingness, and is reminded that man is only a creature made of dust and ashes-but it is our connectivity that remains.

I often refer to the moment when it is just you and that ancestral archaeological evidence as the "Sacred Unveiling."

My fiance and I took a trip last year to Italy after visiting the amazing archives in Ellis Island and connecting that his great-grandparents crossed the Atlantic in 1920 from a small province in Italy called Cinque Frondi. As we walked through the small town on Day of the Dead, we realized that nothing but churches were open. We entered the only church that had a congregation in the middle of the Piazza.

As we entered after mass, we befriended the Deacon and asked if they might have any records. Over an espresso, he said he would look into them on Monday. We filled the rest of the day imagining what his great-grandparents were like, what they did in the town, how they met, what activities they loved to do. Although we only had one signature from the boat archives, there, every fountain and cobble stone was filled with their presence.

Days passed as we continued north, hoping that the busy Deacon would remember to look. And over a Napoli pizza, he messaged us that Carmela, my fiances great-grandmother, was baptized and married in that same church we were just in. It felt as if she led us to the church to uncovered her, and bring her back to life.

I want to know if any of you have had similar experiences!

Have you felt this "Sacred Unveiling" of your ancestors when doing Ancestry work?


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