Monday, June 22, 2009

England Vacation

Here, as promised, is my post on the England trip of '09:

It is my maternal granddad's 80th birthday this year and we're having a family reunion in Washington state to celebrate his life. His name is Clinton Law but I call him my glowing granddad and perhaps you can see why. The man is virtually luminescent!

My contribution to the family reunion festivities came about because of a friend named Heidi Johnson and her inspired idea to go to England this summer to do family history. I have long wanted to go to anywhere in Europe and especially England, and coincidentally (if you believe in coincidences), the Law family hails from the West Midlands there. I was able to walk the same street my ancestors may have walked, study their lives, and see the churches they worshipped in and the cemetaries where they're buried.

A few months after Heidi introduced the idea to me, I had a plane ticket to London in hand and I was standing in the Dulles airport, about to fly across the Atlantic.

We spent five days sightseeing in London and then I alone traveled by bus to Birmingham in the West Midlands to investigate my own family history. The first thing that struck me about my family's old stomping grounds is how different the area must be compared to what my ancestors knew in the mid-nineteenth century and before. Today there is a sizeable Indian and African population with accompanying cultural influences and Birmingham is very industrial and dilapidated in parts. Indeed, the experienced shattered many of my preconceived notions of England. I often remarked to other members in our traveling group (Heidi, her sister Michelle, her aunt, two uncles, and two cousins) that it didn't really feel like I had left home. England felt like a very quirky corner of the USA.

Some of my favorite parts of the trip were seeing Canterbury Cathedral, taking in a production of Wicked, and walking the streets of London and Birmingham. But the coolest thing by far for me was finding the names of five people. I spent a couple of days in the Smethwick public library scrolling through microfilm for 7 hours, but when I found new names that I knew I was related to a thrill ran through me every time. One name brought such an onrush of the Spirit that I knew she had been waiting to be identified. She seemed to be saying, "You found me!" I also got to visit a cemetary where several of my ancestors are buried to take pictures and rubbings. I leave you now with a picture of the final resting place of my 4th-great-grandparents: