There's a new series on NBC called "Who Do You Think You Are?" based on the popular BBC series that has been running since 2004. The premise of the show is to trace the family trees of celebrities. I have always been interested in genealogy, and I would love to trace my family tree. My mother always claimed her family was descended from French barons and baronesses, and my father always used to counter with, "Well, that makes up for the fact that my family is descended from Irish horse thieves." I think for both of them, the truth lies somewhere in between. As with all families, if we shake our family trees, we will shake out a few famous people, and a few infamous.
Last week's episode featured Sarah Jessica Parker. She was amazed to discover that one of her ancestors was Esther Elwell, her tenth great grandmother, who had been arrested for practicing witchcraft during the Salem Witch trials. Esther, along with two other women, had been accused of performing witchcraft on their neighbor, Mary Fitch, causing her death. However, the date of the deposition, November 8th, 1692, happened after the dissolution of the Court of Oyer and Terminer and her case never went to trial. Esther lived to be 82 years old, and she was the last woman to be accused of witchraft in Salem.
How much of our ancestors' DNA do we inherit? I have always felt a very close affinity with Queen Elizabeth the First. When I read about her, and the time in which she lived, I have a very strong feeling of déjà vu. It's almost as if I can remember things from that period of history. And she was a redhead, and there are a large number of redheads in our family. As well as our physical attributes, are our ancestors' memories encoded in their DNA and passed on to us? If so, what memories are we passing on to our descendants? When Sarah Jessica Parker was learning about her ancestors lives, she felt an emotional connection with them. Does the silver thread that connects us remain unbroken throughout the generations? Are we the sum of our ancestors' lives and experiences? Perhaps we are more closely connected to these strangers than we realize.
Who do you think you are?