Gaining Genealogical Consciousness (with Dr. Amy Harris)

Tue Oct 25 22:59:32 EDT 2022
Episode 1

Dead cats and genealogy might seem like an odd mix. But when it comes to genealogical consciousness, they actually make perfect sense. BYU professor Amy Harris puts this into perspective by explaining that as a child, she would mourn the passing of her pet cats. But then she found peace when she realized that all “relationships are durable and meaningful—even beyond death.” This got us thinking—if we can feel connected to cherished but long deceased pets, shouldn’t our feelings about our ancestors run just as deep? In this episode, hosts Miya Jensen and Michelle Thorley discuss with Professor Harris how we can ensure our relationships with our ancestors stretch into the past as well as the future through genealogical consciousness.

"Of Dead Cats and Dead People: How Family History Can Save the World" by Dr. Amy Harris


Michelle 0:00
Hey Miya.

Miya 0:01
Yeah bestie?

Michelle 0:02
Are we really doing this? Becoming podcast hosts now?

Miya 0:06
I mean, yeah, why not? We're perfect for this job. You are Mexican American. You're a visual artist. You're a history nerd. And you're multifaceted woman who loves family history.

Michelle 0:18
You're so right. You know, and this job you are meant for because you are a professional genealogist, you focus on oral histories and Polynesian family history, you are from the Mallanna, classically trained pianist, and a huge BTS fan. We were made for this.

Miya 0:36
We were made for this.

Michelle 0:37
Let's do this.

Miya 0:37
Let's do this. You're listening to the Love Your Lineage podcast by LDS Living—a multifaceted shame-free your approach to family history. I'm Miya.

Michelle 0:37
And I'm Michelle. And we want to help you find your space and claim your place in your family history story. So Miya, this is kind of a funny question, but I want to start this off with, what do moonwalking, glazed eyes, and the loss of the ability to care about anything all have in common?

Miya 0:59
Girl I know, as a professional genealogist, the answer is family history.

Michelle 1:13
What? This is a family history podcast, and we're admitting people struggle with family history?

Miya 1:22
Oh, yeah. I mean, you and I are both aware that family history at its worst is triggering to some, but at its best, it's super boring to others!

Michelle 1:31
That's so true. And on this podcast, no topic is off limits. We are going to unravel some things, we are going to unpack some things and we are going to turn our hearts

Miya 1:44
Exactly. And I want to say to your reasons for not loving family history are valid and real, but we got you.

Michelle 1:51
We see you.

Miya 1:53
And to help us kick off our show and introduce genealogical consciousness is Dr. Amy Harris, the head of the family history department at BYU Provo.

Michelle 2:02
Yay! And Miya and I are completely obsessed with Professor Harris. We are the co-presidents of her fan club. If you'd like to join, just send us a message. But we are so excited to have her here and speaking about genealogical consciousness. Which the term genealogical consciousness, I had no idea what that meant. And yet it has changed my life in so many wonderful ways.

Miya 2:25
And we hope that it'll change your lives too.

Michelle 2:28
Thank you, Amy, so much for being here. Or Professor Harris. Which one?

Amy Harris 2:34
Thank you.

Michelle 2:34
But none of her students can, it's professor Harris.

Amy Harris 2:37
That's right, but only when their students write Miya?

Miya 2:39
Only one your a student. Right when I, well funny story, right when I graduated from BYU and I walked, I literally walked off the stage and Professor Amy Harris was there to give me a hug. It was very clear after that, that we were just me and Amy now no longer professor and student, and I love that about Amy.

Michelle 2:56
BFF forever. I am so excited to have you here today because I want to talk to you about a speech you gave that completely changed my life. And this is the most amazing intro to any speech that ever was. Okay, let me play right here.

Amy Harris 3:14
I'm going to tell you two stories today. A short one about dead cats and along what about dead people. First, dead cats. Now, I know you might be tired of so many talks, beginning with stories about dead cats, but bear with me. My parents views on pets, cats or otherwise, could not have been more different. My mother, pictured here, grew up in a household that didn't allow animals in the house. My dad grew up in a home where pets, at one point including even a monkey pictured here with my grandfather, were allowed inside. Over their 60 some-odd years of marriage, my parents struck a bit of compromise about pets in our home. Smaller, cage bound animals, such as hamsters, snakes, frogs, toads and fish, were allowed inside. But larger animals, such as cats, dogs, and any animal destined to become dinner, stayed in the garage, the dog house or the chicken coop. Dogs were confined, but cats were free to roam. Well, they were free to roam as long as I didn't pick them up and dress them in my dog's clothing. A fate the cat in this photo is clearly contemplating with a mixture of trepidation, and resignation. When I was very young, we lived on a busy intersection with constant traffic. The combination of this location and the pet policy meant that cats, and there seemed to be an endless parade of them that somehow ended up at our house, rarely died of old age. I liked the cats and I mourned their loss. And at some point I began to memorize the names and faces of all the cats who had lived, loved and then shuffled off their mortal coils at our house. Eventually, I was unable to keep all of the memories and names straight and in concern, I asked my mom, "If all those cats would meet us in heaven? And if they would recognize us and we remember them?" She assured me, "they would." The cats, such as the one I'm holding in this photograph, would remember me and I, it, forever. Now, the impact of that story isn't so much about the cats, or what this photo clearly reveals about my early knack for fashion. It is about my mother's assurances that relationships last, much like this photograph of the two of us has lasted far beyond the moment it captured.

Michelle 5:33
I think this has to be one of the best intros of all time. And there has to be a great backstory to this talk. Can you tell us a little bit more about you and your family history?

Amy Harris 5:46
I'm the youngest of a big family. My parents are at the younger end of big families, so most of my grandparents were dead before I was born. So, I felt like my family had this huge backstory that I didn't live through. I was always trying to gather them or labeling photos, hearing the stories, and I kind of wrote myself into those stories. So, yeah, I think I just kind of came with that interest. And then, because I was interested when I went to BYU, declared family history as a major and studied it in college and went to graduate school to get a PhD in history - got a professional credential in genealogy, so I could go back to BYU and teach family history there, which is what I do.

Michelle 6:24
And, am I correct in saying that it's the only bachelor's program for family history in the world?

Amy Harris 6:32

Michelle 6:33

Amy Harris 6:33
So there's BYU-Idaho, does an online applied associate's degree, which is the only associate's degree I know in the world, and then there's a few schools that offer certificates, or sort of a short term online. And then a couple schools in Scotland and Spain that offer online graduate training. But yeah, we're the only, first off, we're the only in-person program in the world that I know of, and that's fully in person. There's sometimes components in some of those European schools, and definitely the only bachelor's degree.

Miya 7:01
As you can tell, Michelle and I are so happy and excited to have you here today. We wanted to spend a decent amount of time talking about the idea of genealogical consciousness. And in your speech, Amy, you define it as, quote, "genealogical consciousness is an ethic, a moral way of behaving based on seeing one's self and one's actions, as inextricably linked with past, present and future people's lives and hopes. Genealogical consciousness means seeing how past, present and future are connected. Again, not in an abstract sense, but in the lived reality of actual thinking and feeling people and how they and we are connected over time and space."

Michelle 7:46
So Miya, this all reminds me of this beautiful story that you told me about you driving in a car. And, if you guys are still having like a hard time grasping, "okay, what exactly is genealogical consciousness?" Miya It has this beautiful story, she's going to take you through that helped me a lot.

Miya 8:05
Okay, okay. So, genealogical consciousness has, is something that my ancestors have always thought of, as an Indigenous-Oceanian. I know that my ancestors knew what it was like to think about those who were coming after them and those who came before them. So in this story, I imagined myself driving in a car. So I'm in a nice car, comfortable, driving down the freeway, and I am trying to get from one place to another. And in order for me to get there, I had to travel along this road. But then I also had to think to, "who made this road first?" Someone had to make it first in order for me to drive down it. And so, Indigenous-Oceanians has always believed that the past was in front of them, and the future was behind them. So today, we don't necessarily think that way. We think the opposite where the future is in front of us, and it's unknown, and we're going into it, and we leave our past behind us. But, that's not necessarily true, because in order for us to get from one place to another, the road has to be paved in front of us - kind of like driving a car. I am looking forward and I'm going down the freeway to go from one place to another. And, someone had to come here, chisel out this road, lay down the cement, and make sure that it was safe for me to go down. And what's in front of me and what's clear is the past. So my ancestors, they knew that the success and the power in their lives and further feature was to look to the past, because in learning from our ancestors, coming to know them, they can prepare us for what we cannot see, which is is our futures, which is behind us. And so, constantly looking to them will give us the answers that we need and that, all of us, as we learn about them, we learn about us, because we are our ancestors in the present form. And our timeline is not linear, it's cyclical. One Eternal round, we're all connected to each other.

Michelle 10:25
Miya, I love that story from Oceania. You know, I love learning about indigenous teachings and the way that indigenous people experience time, which is so different from what I grew up, you know, in the United States, learning about time and space. There's this ancient Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois philosophy, about seven generations. And I want you to close your eyes and visualize, imagine seven circles. Starting from the left, we got your great grandmother, your grandmother, your mother, then you. You're that circle right there in the middle. Then your children, or your nieces and nephews, and your great grandchildren and your great great grandchildren. That's seven generations. It's the ability to think about 75 or more years into the past, from where you are right now, and about 75 years into the future from where you are right now. And that is genealogical consciousness. Mind blown.

Miya 11:35
So Amy, as co-presidents of your fanclub, which by the way, Michelle, and I have pins with your face on it and that we're so proud to wear. People ask me all the time, "who is that?" "Girl, that's what I'm the biggest fan of." So, we want to know more information about how you coined that term genealogical consciousness. Can you tell us more about that?

Amy Harris 11:57
So, I got thinking about the idea of more use of the- we use the word consciousness with lots of things like historical consciousness, that we're aware of how the past affects us, or class consciousness or feminist consciousness, whatever, right? So, as an academic, you've sort of heard a million flavors of that. I was working on, I do 18th century British history and history of family stuff, and I was working on something for that, I don't even remember what it was exactly. I was thinking about how they thought, how this family was studying or something, thought about their connection with other generations and I coined the term for myself genealogical consciousness. I went to a conference, it was on the history of families, a small conference, it was in Finland and was very cool. I felt very grown up. But, I tried it out there in a historical, you know, sort of as a tool to understand history of the past. And it was fine, but no one else in the room was nearly as excited as I expected them to be. Because I thought, "Oh, I guess I'm not really on to something I thought I was." So I had that phrase in my head and then, when they asked me to give the form talk at BYU, so they asked me in April and I gave it in July, that phrase came back. But I started to think of it more theologically, I guess, right? And more ethically immoral than just as an analytical tool for understanding the past. And so, it was, and I read a bunch of stuff, I read so much stuff that spring thinking who else had thought about, you know, it's not like, I'm the only person that's thought about "Oh, the past is important." But, I just really started to think about, "What's the point of doing this if it can't transform us in some way?" By "this," I mean, family history. Because I love it, right? And you guys love it. And lots of people love it that are just into it. Yeah. And they're just into it. But that's like, 3% of the church, right? So. So it can't be that. And it's puzzle solving, and it's fun, and it's intellectually engaging, pays my bills. It does a lot of things for me. But those aren't transcendent things. They can, I think they can still be consecrated things, because the person doing them is consecrating their time and their effort, but they're not transcendent for other people. They're not meaningful to other people, to make another person live ethically or morally. So then you're not thinking about, "So what is it about family history that would change how we actually live?" And it can't just be about doing baptisms for the dead. There has to be something, if it's heart turning, that, you know, there has to be something transformative in there. And so I think, number one, it should teach us- family history should teach us to not see the dead as objects. That they are not objects, we move around to demonstrate our righteousness. And, they're people. And if you really believe that, "All people who've ever lived are God's children and they will, you will see them again someday," you owe them some sense of respect, right? That this is a person, so they they shouldn't be an object. And I think that should spin in, "Well, if the dead should not be objects, the living should not be objects." And so the number one rule should be in family history first, "Do no harm to the living and don't objectify anybody." So that's how, I thought a lot about it since that talk, because I feel like some of those ideas came through me and my experiences, but also were above my own thoughts and experiences. I think about it too, "what does that really mean?" And I think, if you really let it sink in, it transforms us in a way that you're better a neighbor. You're less likely to think you're superior to your neighbor based on race, or class, or nationality, or gender, or a sports team you support, I don't know, right? Well, all the stupid ways we hate each other and are cruel to each other. I think it makes us less inclined to exploit one another- sexually, economically, physically, all the ways we do that. So to me, that's, that makes family history something that's built on this really beautiful grand scope of the salvation of all of humankind and can help you in the nitty gritty day-to-day life. Religion, to be effective, has to be kind of cool and transformative on a big scale and it has to make a difference in how we live now. It has to mean something in how we live now. And so I think, to me, logical consciousness is just a label for letting, basically, the atonement transform how we treat each other.

Miya 16:35
Woo, that was so good!

Michelle 16:36

Amy Harris 16:39
I just need to take the two of you with me everywhere I go, it's way more amazing.

Michelle 16:47
I have definite chills. One, I love that like, when you talk about our ancestors being people and and that is so important, because I think we put our ancestors on a pedestal. We either, it's either, and/or, they were either good or bad. And if we know anything about people, we are complex people. Humans are complex. And to be able to take your ancestors in their complexity, broadens this story of your life. Your family history story is so much more broad with the complexity of each person. And the bigger the scope, the more beautiful it is. And also painful.

Miya 17:33

Amy Harris 17:34
But, then if we can pivot to think, "wait, the people I live with and work with and are annoyed with at the red light are like that, too." That they're complex. That they're good and bad. Yeah, and that's...

Michelle 17:48
You can hold more space for them and you can hold more space for your ancestors. And, one thing that genealogical consciousness has taught me is that, "the more I can hold more space for the complexities of my ancestors who are my family, the more ability I have to hold more space for living people who are also strangers in their complexities as well." And that's changed my life. Like, honestly.

Amy Harris 18:13
Well, the stuff you put on your Instagram account, right? And your art where you're like, "all these people are my people." Like the post, I remember you posting and I think I've talked to Miya about this, about you saying, you know, reading stuff from an ancestor who would have thought your existence was an abomination- I think was the word you used because she thought mixed race was evil, like lots of people in the 19th century and 20th century. That's really hard to grapple with, to think the person that I'm a descendant of, would not have seen my existence as legitimate. Right? Would have see my existence as a violation of some natural order nonsense, or something.

Michelle 18:52
And how do I love them? And I've heard that a lot from a lot of, you know, the queer LGBTQ community that, you know, it's hard for them to connect to their ancestors because of the same reasons that they wonder how much their ancestors would have even loved them or accepted them, just as some of their living family is not accepting them or loving them. I think, you know, dealing with our dead maybe is a, I don't know about easier place to start, but if you can't deal with living people let's try out some things with dead people. It sounds weird but trying things and in the actual literary thing, but you're spiritually having these connections in these conversations with people that may not be accepting of you, but maybe you could accept some things about them. And, you know, for myself on that journey, when during dia muertos and I and I build my ofrenda, and I put my ancestors photos on there, you know, because I'm a multiracial person, so I have a multiracial background, multiracial family. You know, the thought does come to me, "these two people probably wouldn't have ever liked each other. These two people, or this person in particular would have been not have been happy to be part of an indigenous celebration." But then I make space for them and say, you know, "I know people can change." And that's one of the greatest things about the atonement and about having an afterlife, and what we believe specifically in the church, though there still is room for growth after we die. I want to believe that my ancestors can grow and things that - whether it's racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia - those are the things that through through help of Jesus Christ, they can they can let go and be more loving and accepting and make space for me. And I hope- I hope.

Amy Harris 20:52
Well, I've had people say, you know, that they can feel that kind of, that they can grant forgiveness through the veil.

Michelle 20:58
I believe that.

Amy Harris 20:59
And that person can vice versa in growth and healing on the other side of the veil.

Miya 21:07
Well, that makes sense because when we talk about the temple and the ordinances that we perform there, I often think about how when we take our ancestors with us to the temple, and are performing work for them, we're literally bringing them to the throne of God to be transformed, to be healed, and to be cleansed of their sins of their generation. And we know through the priesthood power, that, as we take care of our ancestors, that power blesses all of their descendants, aka us. Right? And so, when we take care of them, and we actively are thinking of them, and doing this loving act of not just taking them to God, but as we're going with them to God, constantly, not just in a one time act of the temple, but through our lives by thinking of them, by honoring them, by constantly trying to actually know who they were, as Christ would know them. I truly believe that that's where the real heart turning transformation comes from. Right? Like you mentioned to Amy, that in family history, oftentimes we make people as objects rather than really thinking about who they are. It just makes sense that when we talk about hearts, they're a living, breathing thing. In order for living, breathing things to be moved and transformed, we have to work with other living, breathing things, which is our family. Right? And God, and Christ. It is hard, it's not easy. And I don't think it ever was meant to be easy.

Michelle 22:45
I want to pop in here and mention that, while we have been talking about temple ordinances, we want this podcast to be a space where everyone feels included. We are very much aware, even within our own families, both Miya and I, there are ancestors that we will never know their names, there our ancestors we will never know their faces, that we will never be able to take to do temple ordinances. So there is space here for you, if that is your case in your family, and we are definitely going to address that as we go on more in the show.

Miya 23:18
I really appreciate you saying that Michelle. And holding space for those who may not have the same opportunities as many others, especially in our church, to have the privilege to find names to take to the temple. Currently, we don't have the ability to know and find every ancestor. I really believe that God is aware of each and every individual and that one day it will be revealed to us. It's just not yet.

Michelle 23:48
And that heart turning does not require going to the temple or knowing someone's name.

Miya 23:54

Michelle 23:55
So, I think anyone within the diaspora living in the United States, specifically black, indigenous, people of color. I mean, with colonization, if you have indigenous ancestry, there's only so far back you can go. If you have enslaved ancestry, most of our enslaved ancestors were listed as their age and their sex. They didn't even get to have a name. And so, a lot of us, that's as far as we can go. Maybe even just knowing that they existed and if we're lucky enough to maybe have a DNA test. That's the first time we even know of their existence in our life, which is hard. It's really sad.

Miya 24:39
Yeah, I mean, even for a lot of indigenous people, for even my own ancestors, our language has been threatened over time. Again, through colonization. And that has also threaten the record keeping that we had which was oral tradition, and so many of us don't have written records and so we don't have an account of who our ancestors were generations ago. Though, generations ago, our families knew who they were. So, it's not always possible because of that.

Amy Harris 25:14
At some point, it's not possible for all of us. And most people don't like that I share that story sometimes. But, you know, if you're Irish, good luck getting past 1800ish. Scotland, maybe the same, but maybe you could get to the 1690s. For anywhere in the world, there's a reason you're not allowed to do temple work before 1500 without proving this was a real person and they haven't had their temple work done is the records just aren't as comprehensive. There are some Chinese father-son lineages that go back quite far and some Korean ones I believe, but these are a small fraction of people so that when we run out of records, we run out of knowledge pretty quick. I know that's hard for some people, because they think that our job is to do all the work before the millennium, but I think there's a method in that madness that is to remind us this is God's work. This isn't us just check listing off name, after name, after name. The scope of what we can accomplish is just a drop in the bucket for all of the history of humanity. And so maybe that's a reminder to be a little humble with what we're doing. And that God has them all in his hand, like you said, right? He will, our heavenly parents will love their children and care for them. We just, we do this, I see it as, as an offering. We do family history work as an offering that we actually believe it. And we know the offering, it's like slaying a lamb, it doesn't actually do anything, right? It's just a symbolic gesture of, "We actually believe all of humanity is covered by the infinite eternal atonement. We actually believe we have eternal parents who love and care for us." And we're going to do our little piece to show the little way we taste that by feeling feeling that way for our family, but we're all going to run out of records. Maybe that should make us a little more sympathetic for those whose records run out sooner, right? Who can only get to the first person in the 1870 census, because they're enslaved ancestors. There's no record and they can do a DNA test, but that doesn't give them names and stories.

Michelle 27:20
I think it's like anything, you know. If you've always grown up having something you've never thought about what it would be like to go without. And I would love this podcast to be part of that journey for people to realize, "Wow, I'm so blessed to have what I have. And that would be really difficult to not know and not have that." I loved what you said about this work being us being humble while doing this work, but I also would love to add to that being creative. Like there's one thing as a creative person, as an artist. There's obstacles in your way, and you have to think of multiple ways to get over that obstacle. That's one of the things I love, but also frustrates me about family history, is that here's this obstacle, what can I do to really help me go around it? And the creative ways that I found to go around things have often been the most heart turning ways. Okay, so, if we've got a lot of people out there who either can't, or it's just not the way that they feel connected by taking names to the temple, what are some real life ways that they can apply genealogical consciousness and do family history work? Which I even hate saying that, because I feel like a lot of people are gonna be like, "Ooh, you said the F word!" So, what are some ways that we can bring this kind of energy into our life?

Amy Harris 28:53
Well, one of you said earlier, "What's heart turning that doesn't require being in the temple?" The ordinates work is a component, right? But like you said, "How do you bring it into the rest if you're not in the temple 24/7?"

Michelle 28:53
So, what do you do?

Amy Harris 29:09
So, first off, I want to say, I have to speak in church Sunday in a ward that's not not my own and the topic is, "Mighty Change of Heart." So, I was thinking about how heart turning, Alma echoes that language with a mighty change of heart. Heart turning and heart changing are similar things. So, I think of things that are in your daily life, so it could be, "Is there an ancestor or is there a living family member that you struggle with?" What could you do? And I don't mean somebody who's abusive to you and you need to stay away from, I don't mean that. I just mean somebody that, they irritate you or they've hurt you. What could you do to sort of extend a little heart turning to them, right? Trying to understand who they are or come to them with curiosity from another place, right? The thing that you can't engage on, maybe let that be and be curious about some other part of their life? So you ask them a little bit about where they came from, or that kind of thing. I think it can be pretty simple, some of the stuff at a family gathering to just ask a older family member about the first time they went to school or their first date, or, I mean, my sister recorded my mom a lot of times, and we'd never heard the first date story. It was hysterical. You just have to be a little more mindful about, okay, I'm gonna go to the family reunion that usually ends up being weird or whatever it is, right? Traumatizing. And I'm going to have a mission, right? I'm going to have one question to ask one side of the family or one person on that side of the family that connects me to them, turns my heart to them in some simple way to just keep those doors open.

Miya 31:01
And I think too, what you said Amy, those questions are great to ask people, whether it be family members, friends, or neighbors. It reminded me of one of my first family history assignments at BYU in the program. I was asked to do a project to a family history project and publish it online as a blog or video website. I decided to go with a blog, because that was the thing when I was a student. I was in that phase of my life where I was done serving a full time mission and I was ready to get married and to move on with my life in that way. So I thought, well, because this is what I'm trying to do: I'm trying to get married, trying to date right now. I wasn't really successful, but I was trying. I thought, you know it would be great to know how my aunties and uncles, my parents, grandparents, tried to find each other and how that worked out. So I interviewed all of them. I interviewed all of them and I posted all their stories on the blog, but also from the perspective of the husband, and then of the wife. I kept it separate for a reason, right? Because, usually, the wife likes to go on and say all her things. And now that I'm married, that's very true. But it's so good to hear both perspectives and I think, learning and capturing those stories. I mean, I heard details I never heard growing up about my parents and about their dating life and stories, and even with my grandparents too, and aunties and uncles, but it gave me not only a glimmer of hope, but also, their examples helped me in even just the simplest things with dating, and I mean, it really changed my life. So I think learning to look at yourself, like, "Okay, where am I right now? What am I doing? Or what do I want to be? And where do I want to go?" And then looking to those who may be around you, like your family or your friends? And asking them, "So you're at this point in your life, how did you get there? Or how did this happen?" And I really think that'll help turn your heart to them and them to you. It's, it's real. Yeah.

Michelle 33:15
And for a lot of us, in the diaspora, we might not have family that's close or family that's willing to talk to us. So, in my case, it's been really hard. And I think that's where my art really was born out of that desire to know, communicate, have some sort of relationship with these people that I didn't have a photograph, or even sometimes names. So I started having dreams or just looking at myself in the mirror, because I carry my ancestors in me and starting to just paint people from my mind, ancestresses. That has helped me feel really connected to them, and whether or not they hear me, I don't know. But, I have put forth a great effort to say, "I want to know you." And I won't go into specifics at this point, but I've really had some instances where I know that they heard me and that they've responded and helped me find them. Or, even just little tidbits about their lives, maybe not their names or even photos. But, I do have a lot more photos now than I ever did before because of these unconventional, crazy ways to try to connect.

Amy Harris 34:31
Can I just plug in something really, nuts and bolts, practical?

Miya 34:35

Amy Harris 34:35
If you can't find names to go to the temple for whatever reason, or you can't even find names, right? The internet, just, you can be creative. And if you don't have Michelle's drive to become an artist to do that, you could write poetry about them. You could write fictional accounts of their life, whatever. But, the internet just. You can look at pictures where they're from, you can read history about where they're from, you can know the art and the literature that was produced at the time they lived. There's just so much available now that you don't have to travel to the place to see that. I mean, if you can, that's awesome. That's a great way to connect, even if you don't know the names, but there's so many ways you could just learn about their context that's just free as long as you have Wi Fi.

Michelle 35:14
I'm a huge fan of hairstyles and jewelry. I love it.

Amy Harris 35:22
And it was your bedtime stories? Right? Like just folkways, folk. I mean, there's so many things that, frankly, we owe feminist historians, because instead of the sort of top down kings and warriors kind of history. And by feminist historians, I don't just mean women. I mean, people sort of, "wait, what were women doing?" And so we know so much more now about how they prepared food, and how food and clothing was part of a religious experience or an expression. We just know so much more about the overall people's lives, even if they're not your people, exactly, but you know, your people were there.

Michelle 35:59
It's so exciting. It's still so exciting for me to this day.

Amy Harris 36:03
Yeah, just some really cool stuff. So, that makes me think of something. Can I add another story real quick? I'm writing the story for my nephew for his Christmas present. It's not done yet, but if you do not have, like, if your direct line ancestors are 'meh,' or abusive, or horrible, and/or if you don't have descendants, it can feel like family history stuff doesn't apply and you don't get to participate. Maybe even talking about genealogical consciousness feels exclusive, because you're like, "well, I don't have anybody to pass it on to. I don't get to become a new ancestor." So I was writing this story for my nephew, at his parents request that he get a family history story, and I'm handwriting it in a journal with pictures and stuff. He's inherited, in addition to all this straight, linear descent stuff we all know about. He's inherited 200 years of what I call unfiltered 'aunting.' My great, great, great aunt Elizabeth, who married and had one child who lived not to 2 years old, and never had any other children, so she has no descendants. And my great aunt Cecil, who got married later and they never had children, so she has no descendants. And my aunt Lillian, who got married and had a child that predeceased her and didn't have kids hersel, so she has no descendants. And two of my older sisters, who've never married and don't have children, they don't have descendants. I don't have children, I don't have descendants. That he, and all my nieces and nephews, are beneficiaries of that kind of 'aunting.' Everybody loved aunt Cecil, right? Her nieces. And my great aunt Elizabeth, they all just refer to her as Aunt Browette -that was her married surname- for generations. My dad knew stories about her even though she died 25 years before he was born. And aunt Cecil was the last line of her obituaries, like, she's much loved by her nieces and nephews. And aunt Lillian was much loved. I have her piano. My sister has glassware she bought her. That piano later this year is going to go live at my nephew's house who learned to play the piano on that piano. And there's some naming connections, where some of them are named for each other. So, I think there's a way to participate in genealogical consciousness that isn't linear and isn't about biology, right? It's not about, can you reproduce? And it also allows you to connect parts of your family even if they're not, you know, you can set aside abusive parts or not so great parts if you're not ready for that, and hold on to other parts of your family history.

Michelle 38:37
Oh my gosh, thank you for sharing that! Professor Harris or Amy, my friend. I'm so grateful for your influence in my life and I know I speak for Miya when, we are so grateful that you would be our first guest on this podcast. And we are going to continue to grow your fan club. Thank you for for all you've done to improve our lives and to help us connect to our families in a healthy, heart turning way. So, thank you so much.

Amy Harris 39:08
Thank you. It's been a delight and I'm just I'm always touched the way the two of you support me, and respond to me, and encourage me. Thank you.

Michelle 39:16
You're the best, we love you!

Miya 39:18
We love you, thank you.

Michelle 39:21
Thank you for joining us for this episode of Love Your Lineage. You can find all the references and full transcripts for this episode in our show notes at And, if you love this episode, please please please leave us a review or rating.

Miya 39:38
This episode was hosted by me, Miya, and the lovely Michelle. It was produced and edited by Erica Free and Katie Lambert. And mixed by Mix at Six Studios. Thank you for being with us today and we hope you feel empowered to love your lineage and to embrace your authentic family history story.

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