Remembering is part of who we are.
Remembering makes us human.
Remembering means that hopefully we do not make the same mistakes again.
In our genealogy research we remember those we love who have gone before us.
We speak their names.
We tell their stories.
We mark our place in the long story that is our family story wending it's way through time.
In every culture in the world there is a way of remembering the ancestors.
Some of us have ancestors whose names were taken from them.
Restorative Justice is a phrase that falls lightly from some peoples' lips.
For others it is about a past that people should 'just go and get over'
But if I am an adult who was taken from my mother when I was a child, or if I am descended from enslaved people this is not my past.
This is my pain-filled today.
Today, I walk around not knowing my own name because I do not know theirs.
Today, I walk around with a hole in my soul.
Many people look at these tragic losses and they feel separate from them.
If they do feel empathy, they feel disempowered and do not know what to do.
When my daughter Hannah died, my world fragmented.
I searched to find a way that I could remember her and acknowledge her and show my love for her.
Naming her was the first step. In times gone by babies who were born still were not given a name.
Hannah means gift of God and it was the name she was given before she was born and before she died.
As time passed, I began to create a family tree in which Hannah's name is written.
Everytime I write her name, it gives me comfort.
Everytime I write her name, I ensure that she will not be forgotten.
Everytime I write her name, I say to everyone, you cannot know me and the person that I am if you do not know that my little girl died.
Through my experience I have learned the importance of names and speaking her name.
This has led me to a powerful feeling of empathy with those whose names have been taken.
From the safety of my own home, I have discovered that there is much I can do to walk alongside others whose names have been taken.
I took an Autosomal DNA test and uploaded a simple family tree online, so that the children who were taken from their mothers in my family can find us if they are searching. One day I hope to meet them and tell them about their mothers and all their cousins.
As a result of my DNA test I have also discovered that I have cousins who are people of colour, so I contribute the names of enslaved people found in old documents to a worldwide project called The Slave Name Roll Project. I actively search to find our common ancestor. I cannot undo what has been done by people who share my blood but I can name it and acknowledge my previously unknown, unacknowledged cousins.
I am only one of thousands of people worldwide doing this.
Each of us is contributing to restoring justice to those who have been treated unjustly.
We are not waiting for governments to change our world.
We are making the change.
PS If you would like to find out more about Autosomal DNA Testing check out these VERY short videos www.martinebrennan.com/dna.html
You can access and/or contribute to the #SlaveNameRollProject here slavenamerollproject.blogspot.ie/