Every day I learn more and more about different genealogists and those that are in love with the idea of ancestry and family history. It comes through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and many other social media platforms. I’ve been able to meet so many fascinating folks and I can’t wait to meet more. Today’s interview in our Genealogy in the Works series is brought to you by the History Yogini, Lori Larson.
How do yoga and genealogy intersect in your life?
Yoga teaches us to live in the present so we do not suffer from past woes (depression) or future fears (anxiety). When you’re on the mat and moving through poses, intentionally breathing as you go, the mind does an amazing thing—it focuses on what you are doing and not much else. The poses are designed to quiet the mind to set you up for meditation. Well, if there’s one thing we know about
Well, if there’s one thing we know about genealogy, it’s that we’re not living in the present time. BUT, there is a deeper connection at play here. Through meditation, yoga has taught me to dive into my inner psyche, bringing me more in tune with my “true self.” This is the inner knowing and intuition that we are all capable of tapping into. But, in order to find our true self, we have to have an understanding of where we come from. We are not plopped on this planet without a past. (I’m not even talking about the idea of reincarnation.)
We are placed within families, whether biologically or through adoption, that have a long history with all sorts of experiences. So, although yoga teaches us to be in the present, it is also beneficial to understand our ancestors’ lives to accurately understand our true self. The linking of our body, mind, and spirit represents the deep bond all living things share—we’re all connected. Not only are we connected to the people around us, the earth below us and the plants and animals that live among us, we are also connected to the people who came before us. As the scientist, Carl Sagan explained energy is never destroyed, only transformed. For me, History Yogini is a journey of
self-discovery through my ancestors.
How did you get started in genealogy?
There tends to be one kid in the family who is more interested in listening to what the adults have to say. That kid was my dad. As the eldest in his family, he’s always been perceived as the wise sage everyone turns to, even in his youth. His retelling of family stories really generated an interest in me to discover more about these people. It’s always fun to learn through documentation that some of these stories have a lot of truth to them. You just never know with family lore. Now, I enjoy sharing my finds with dad as we both dive deeper into our shared past. I began working at a library in my early-20s that had free access to Ancestry so I would spend breaks and lunch times punching in relatives’ names and that’s when my family tree started to grow.
What is your current study or area of passion?
I’m fascinated by the study of epigenetics, which helps us understand the expression of genes. I don’t
claim to be a scientist, but I think we’ve just tapped the surface on what we understand about heredity. Today, if someone carries a cancer gene their lifestyle can dictate whether that gene ever gets expressed. If an ancestor experienced famine or war, their genes are altered by these traumatic experiences. Diving deeper is the theory of behavioral epigenetics, which claims those same relatives that experienced the trauma of famine or war also stored their emotional reactions in their cells which leave molecular scars that attach to the DNA.
So, not only do ancestors pass down the physical effects of what they experienced, they also pass down the emotional effects. Now, it goes both ways, if grandma was raised in a deeply loving home then that positively affects her DNA. Their experiences are never truly gone; they get passed on to us. This means we have the capability to control our future trajectory and that of generations by how we choose to live today. All the more reason to get a handle on this modern fast-paced stress we all feel. Might I suggest some Yoga?
Tell us a little quick story about your family history!
(Photo: Samuel Nasieff, second from left, in his dry-goods store.)
Both of my paternal great-grandfather emigrated from the Middle East so this makes following their family lines nearly impossible. Anything I discover leaves me flying high for some time. One discovery I made was my Great-Grandfather Samuel Nasieff came to this country from Beirut in 1903 as Salim Hamad. He and his cousin Joseph had a combined total of $60. Sam eventually made his way to Springfield, Missouri and became a merchant, as was common for Middle Eastern immigrants in that era. My grandma, his daughter, said they were booted from Springfield because Sam read from the Quran and the KKK didn’t care for the uppity Muslim man. So, he took his family and set up a dry-goods store in the mining town of Picher, Oklahoma.
Another discovery was the origin of my maiden name, Baderdeen. Every single person in this country who carries the name Baderdeen is directly related to me. My dad was always led to believe it was made up, as was common when immigrants came to America. But, a Lebanese man was giving a talk at work, and I decided to ask if he had ever heard the name Baderdeen in Lebanon. What would it hurt? Sure enough, he HAD heard the name Baderdeen and even had cousins with the name back in Lebanon. It was a total shocker for my family! It means “The dawn of religion,” which is pretty funny because I come from some scoundrels. So, it turns out my Great-Grandfather Fred (who had a Turkish tattoo from the time he was conscripted into the Ottoman army as a young teen) really did leave Turkey as a Baderdeen. I’m still proud of this discovery, and I can’t wait to meet a Lebanese Baderdeen someday.
What advice would you give to genealogists?
Be cautious about sharing what you find digging around in your family tree until you learn more. One instance, I nonchalantly mentioned to my aunt while sitting around the bonfire that her mother had been married to someone else before her father. “Whaaaat, mama was married before?!?!” My dad knew the story but my aunt obviously did not. So, here I was the bearer of a family secret I wasn’t even privy to. Yeah, that was the naïve genealogist in me. I know better now.
Why is genealogy important to you?
As my family’s self-appointed historian I feel called to preserve our history for my relatives. And let’s
face it if I’m not doing it nobody else is! It’s an honor to be recognized as the person to go to when
cousins have college assignments or as we’re sitting around the bonfire on the 4th of July and questions arise. Also, I have a six-year-old son, and I hope to study my husband’s side of the family more so he has a strong understanding of who he comes from. I wish I could give the author credit, but I’m not sure who wrote it. This quote speaks to the “why” so beautifully for me. “We are the chosen. In each family, there is one who seems called to find the ancestors. To put flesh on their bones and make them alive again, to tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know and approve. Doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts, but instead, breathing life into all who have gone before. We are the storytellers of the tribe.”