Meeting cousins just got easier

On The Way

By Olivia Fowler

Olivia Fowler

Olivia Fowler

Saturday was a great day, because I discovered relatives I didn’t know I had. Fowler is related to everybody in the county, but I’m not, or at least that’s what I thought until I went to the fifth annual Reunion of Upcountry Families at Southern Wesleyan University.

And there, I found relatives I didn’t know existed.

My people hail from Eastern North Carolina and Tidewater Virginia. While wandering around the room scanning family genealogy tables, I discovered the Masters/Southerland table, which had a large graphic behind it listing all the family names connected.

And what to my wandering eyes should appear but three family names numbered among my ancestors.

The Ropers, Grimes and Sutherlands were all up there.

I struck up a conversation with Annette, a genealogist I know who turned into a cousin. She showed me how I was connected to these families, and I must admit I was thrilled to learn that I have cousins here.

Not only do I have cousins from here to eternity, but best of all, these are people that I like.

We don’t choose our relatives, but it‘s a blessing to find out they’re great people.

It was so rewarding to learn about our connections and to discover that there are many interests we have in common.

Not everyone agrees with my theory that blood recognizes blood, but that’s OK.

One of the most wonderful luxuries of growing older is realizing it isn’t my job to explain my feelings or to justify my opinions to others.

It doesn’t matter if others don’t agree. They don’t have to. After all, this is America and we are free to think as we like.

One thing my newly discovered cousins have in common is their shared interest in our history and the value they place upon family. That’s where our real treasure lies. Family ties are irreplaceable. We’ll never really understand who we are until we know who we were. It’s true that those who came before us are no longer with us physically. But the songs we sing, the faith we have, the stories we share, the foods we like and the activities we enjoy are directly linked to them. Whether we know it or not, the things we value in life are the legacy passed down from generations of people long gone.

I sometimes imagine what it must have been like for all those who came before us. It amazes me that they left their home countries, packed up their families and possessions and bought passages on ships that crossed the great Atlantic Ocean to reach a land that was unknown to them.

What kind of courage does it take to do something like that? These were optimistic people who had a firm belief in the possibilities of a better life.

These were the dreamers, entrepreneurs, inventors, explorers, troubadours and adventurers who shaped our nation.

I can’t imagine what it would have been like if they’d turned their backs on opportunity and said, “We’d better not go. It might not work out.”

If that had happened, none of us would be here now. One of the greatest tragedies imaginable, at least to me, is that the great musical heritage created in our country by our talented ancestors would not exist. In addition to Southern cuisine, the musical legacy of the South is one our greatest contributions to the nation.

Without our ancestors, there’d be no bluegrass, jazz, blues, soul or gospel music. There’d be no fried chicken, barbecue or soul food. Worst of all, corn on the cob and hush puppies wouldn’t exist. And the greatest storytellers in the world would be silent.

So to our ancestors, I say, “Thank you.” And to my new cousins, I say, “It’s wonderful to be a member of the family.”