Monday, July 16, 2007
A Tree Without Roots
Alice C. Linsley
There is an African saying that "a people without knowledge of their history is like a tree without roots."
This saying is understood differently depending on one's culture. When Americans hear the word "history" we think of the academic study of past events chronologically arranged and recounted in a linear fashion. We don't tend to think in cycles, as did the ancients, and we rarely consider that for most people of the world history is what happened to their ancestors. For them, history involves genealogies, especially those of the ruling families.
Many of my ancestors are listed in the book Connecticut Linsleys: Six Johns. Using this book, I've traced my ancestors to North Branford, Connecticut and from there, to Nottingham, England. Recently I communicated with the Rector of the parish in Nottingham where at least one Linsley is buried. Ironically, her name was Alice Linsley. The parish is Holy Trinity Lenton (Nottingham) and Fr. Martin Kirkbride was kind to send me this photo of a bronze plaque in memory of Alice Stickley Linsley, beloved wife of John Thomas Linsley. It is mounted on a wall in his church.
Alex Haley's experience of tracing his roots back to a village in West Africa speaks volumes about the African propensity to tell history through genealogy. This propensity among Abraham's Kushite ancestors lead to the preservation of the ruler-priest lists in Genesis 4, 5 and elsewhere in the Old Testament. Using these lists, we are able to reconstruct the kinship pattern of Abraham and his ancestors. That is the primary work of this blog.
The Genesis genealogical information is a treasure trove of information, ready to be opened by those who take the material seriously. If I had assumed that the genealogical record of the Connecticut Linsleys was unreliable I wouldn't have proceeded to discover a certain relative, John Thomas Linsley of Recourt, Notts. Likewise, if we assume that the Genesis genealogies are not reliable we will not discover our family heritage as children of Abraham by faith. We will be like "a tree without roots."