Sunday, January 26, 2014

Forever Changed

Forever Changed by Carol Hector-Harris

     The Study Abroad trip to Ghana has changed my life forever.

     My father, an only child, received a number of historical items from his mother, the eldest of all of her siblings. In the mid-1970s, my father started passing along those family heirlooms to me. There and then began my interest in our family tree. I had a great head start because Daddy gave me documents that matched stories my grandmother told me as we sat under the largest tree in her front yard during the summers I spent with her and Grandpa.

     Over the decades, I spent many hours in libraries researching archival information and later purchasing birth and death certificates from the State of Massachusetts. Compiling information was a long and painstaking process. I worked on the tree in my spare time. As I discovered and collected more and more information, I would sit back and stare off into space, wondering, hoping and dreaming that I’d one day find an ancestor who was born in Africa, just as Alex Haley did. But with each new generation uncovered, I found that all of them were born in the U. S. Frustrated, I still hoped and dreamed that I would one day find that African ancestor.

     When one of my sisters retired, she joined me in the ancestral search. In early 2010, we were seated at her dining room table, pouring over records in an effort to see where we may have missed a clue on one particular branch. We hadn’t, so, with the idea that just about anything and everything can be found on the Internet, I Google an ancestor in the hope that something would pop up. A document we had never heard of was the first document on the screen. I clicked on it, and my sister discovered that, lo and behold, the document was compiled by someone she knew. Finally, after carefully reviewing each page, we saw that it was chock full of census information, including the names of family members we knew and many we didn’t. It was a gold mine. So, as we always do, we sent away for any and all official documents we could get. Lo and behold again! One document said that the eldest ancestor was born in Africa. Finally! After more than 30 years, we actually found an ancestor who was born in Africa. And with more digging, we discovered that it was very likely that he was born in Ghana.

     Fast forward to than three years later, I’m a Ohio University Ph.D. student and stumble upon the Study Abroad program, Ghana – Media, Society and Governance program. I applied, was accepted and three days later, I discovered that I am ethnically related to the Ga-Adengbe people of Ghana. For the next several weeks, I dreamed and hoped that I may find my Ga-Adengbe relatives and maybe even my ancestor’s family during this trip.

     Dare I have such a fantastic hope and dream? And even more so, dare I hope and dream that finding ancestral linkages would actually be revealed to me? Very few hopes and dreams have ever come true in my life. How could something that would seem so very impossible actually happened to me? Afraid of and being prepared for disappointment, I decided that I would arrive in Ghana and just let the experience take me wherever I was supposed to go. And take me where I was supposed to go, it did! Within less than 24 hours, I found a Ga-Adengbe relative. 
She took me to her home in Somanya where I met her family; my family! We are now forever linked. And then, soon after Christmas Day, I met a member of my ancestor’s family who explained how my ancestor’s surname had been “corrupted” and discovered what his true surname is. And then a couple days before my trip would end, I was taken to Big Ada where my ancestor’s family compound is located. As I entered the gate, I saw people I had never laid eyes on before but knew I would know them all forevermore. They welcomed me, explained some family history, poured libations, and gave me a new name. I met my ancestor’s family. Unimaginable. A lifelong hope and dream has come true.

     The Study Abroad trip to Ghana has changed my life forever.

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