Tracing Our Families of Origin

Our group of elderly people meets once a month to discharge. The youngest member excluding myself is eighty-two years old. The oldest is a hundred and seven. The group started with twenty-eight people, but many have passed on in the last six years.

We scheduled a meeting to trace our families of origin. People remembered whatever they could and went back as far as they could. Remembering their siblings was a challenge for some. Uninterrupted attention was important (there were attempts to help people remember by interrupting them).

Most of these people were the only survivors, the only ones who had made it this far. Some tried to avoid mentioning anything that would bring back memories of loss.

I asked if I could record the information, as most of them did not know how to read or write. Some said they wished their ancestors had lived to this day when people were more “intelligent and knowledgeable.” I reminded them that intelligence was not defined by the ability to read, write, or keep proper records—that they were intelligent and doing well. The validation was important.

They were able to trace back several generations and shared a lot of historical information. There were stories of inter-ethnic wars and loss of livestock and people. Different ethnic groups would raid communities. There would be brutal killings. Girls would be taken by force for marriage. Epidemic diseases would completely wipe out [destroy] some families. At some point they told the stories with humor, followed by an outbreak of laughter, and then some other form of discharge.

I now better understand the courage, intelligence, strength, perseverance, vision, and hardship undergone by our ancestors. I appreciate my roots even more than before.

Wanjiku Kironyo

Nairobi, Kenya

(Present Time 190, January 2018)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00