"Who Do You Think You Are?": Reba McEntire

Though I didn't love this episode - for some reason, it felt really light on the whole "going on a journey to solve a family mystery/make a discovery" thing - two things stood out for me in the Reba McEntire episode last Friday of WDYTYA.

The first was the realization that just as it must be devastating for African-Americans to come face-to-face with the reality that they have ancestors who were slaves, it must not be a picnic for white Americans to realize they had ancestors who were slaveholders. My family has been here for hundreds of years but because they were concentrated in New York/New England, that hasn't ever been an issue for me (although its entirely possible that even in the north I had family who owned slaves - I just haven't found any records of it yet). But Reba seemed absolutely heartbroken when she came across that record for George Brasfield. So while I imagine it has to be harder to know your ancestors were slaves, it was interesting angle to see that it can be a struggle on both sides of it to come to terms with this shameful part of our history.

I also always find it interesting to see which ancestor a person ends up identifying with and Reba, as a mother, really seemed to struggle with the fact that the other George Brasfield, the first on her side of the family to come to America, came here as a 10 year old indentured servant. Since she couldn't imagine ever sending her son on a dangerous voyage across the ocean, knowing she would never see him again, she really needed to find out why that happened. There are all sorts of reasons we identify with certain ancestors, whether its because we are in a similar situation in life or we have similar personalities, but I also appreciate anybody who after undertaking this journey, needs to know not just the who, what, when, and where, but also the why, because without the why, the rest is kind of meaningless. But I actually identified with Reba and George Brasfield the Senior in this episode because I have a similar ancestral story, in that my first Raynor in this country, Edward, was only 10 years old when he came here in 1634. He was an orphan, but he had the advantage that at least he didn't come alone - he traveled here with his uncle and his cousins. But I still always wonder what it must have been like to be uprooted from your life at 10 to undertake a dangerous sea voyage to a completely unknown wilderness. That has always fascinated me.

So looking back at what I wrote, I guess it turns out that even when these episodes don't really speak to me...they still kinda do!