“Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah… and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ” (Matthew 1:2-6, 15-16; all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).
Denis was the father of Denis, and Denis was the father of Michael, and Michael was the father of Dennis, and Dennis was the father of Michael. The story continues on as I begat my son, who has become the father of my three grandchildren.
Genealogies can be fascinating. Apparently, God thinks they are important. The Bible lists Jesus’ genealogy twice (Matthew 1:2-16; Luke 3:23-38) and includes several other genealogies (Genesis 5; 1 Chronicles 1-9) tracing the connections between the people God revealed Himself to.
Over the last few months, my wife has patiently endured my latest obsession: tracing my own genealogy. Perhaps some of you have jumped on the ancestry.com bandwagon. For me, it has been a labor of love, blood, sweat, tears, and fascination. Over the years, I have heard stories about my grandparents and great-grandparents. Some of these I have verified. Other stories may have some imagination mixed with a kernel of truth. Other stories I have not verified. I always heard that my great-grandmother, whose maiden name was Wilhelmina “Minnie” von Dannowitz, was related to a Prussian baron. Unfortunately, I keep hitting dead ends while tracing my mother’s family tree. This is partially because numerous babies named Wilhelmina (von) Dannowitz (or similar spellings) were born around the same time as her, but the birth dates do not match exactly. My research has found that there was a Baron von Dennewitz (similar spelling) who played a pivotal role at the Battle of Waterloo. I have found some evidence that he is my great-grandmother’s ancestor, but have not been able to connect all of the pieces. (I have confirmed that Germans had an annoying habit of changing the spelling of their surnames around that time!)
Regular readers of this blog know most posts focus on what God says through His Word. However, sometimes He speaks to us through our everyday activities. Here are a few lessons I have learned while studying my family tree.
Lesson #1: Be kind to everyone you meet. They are your cousins. I read somewhere that the average Irishman has 14,000 cousins (if you count eighth cousins and closer). I believe that, especially when I find ancestors who had 10 or more children who grew to adulthood.
When looking at my DNA matches on ancestry.com, I find connections to many names that I never associated with my family. A few days after getting my DNA results from ancestry.com, I was tracing my paternal grandmother’s line and reviewed some of the “leaf” hints on my great-grandmother’s name. One hint led to a “Prior” family tree. I thought, “Who’s Prior and why am I here?” After a couple minutes, I found the answer: I have a great-great grandmother whose maiden name was Margaret Prior. I never heard of any relatives by that name nor do I remember ever seeing it spelled like that before. Nevertheless, there it was: apparently, I am part Prior, along with a few other names I never heard before and other familiar Irish names I never associated with my family.
Some DNA matches led to other discoveries. Apparently, I have fifth, sixth, seventh, or eighth cousins who share only a small part of my Irish/German/Eastern European heritage, with most of their ancestry coming from Africa or Asia. So, I repeat that lesson: Be kind to everyone you meet; they are related to you at some point. If you have “issues” with certain racial, ethnic, or religious groups, remember: That Arab, Asian, or Latin American is your distant relative, no matter how northern European you may look.
Remember that the Bible teaches us that all humans today are descendants of Noah. Some evolutionary scientists, while not believing in the Bible, will still say that all living humans are descended from one ancient female ancestor. At some point, your family tree will converge with everybody else’s. We might be cousins through Shem, Ham, and Japheth, but we are cousins just the same.
Lesson #2: Accidents of history conspired to keep you from being born; nevertheless, you made it! I discovered a few moments in my family tree when my family line could have been wiped out. I have always heard that my great-grandfather was the only child from a large family to grow to adulthood and have children. What if he had died young like his siblings? I would not be here (at least with my current DNA and ancestry).
I have a four-times great-grandfather who was sentenced to be executed for his role in an Irish rebellion against Britain, the Rebellion of 1798. The night before his execution, his fiancee helped him escape from prison, and he fled to Canada. He was later able to return to Ireland, marry the young lady who helped save his life, and eventually move back to Nova Scotia. Without her heroism, I would not be here.
Another great-grandfather was married three times, with his first two wives dying during or shortly after childbirth; it is humbling to think that, if either of those women had lived, Denis Lynch would not have married Katie Deen, who bore my grandfather, Michael Lynch.
You can choose to think of yourself as a random accident of evolution and history, or you can see the hand of God orchestrating history to ensure your arrival. I choose the latter. With that perspective in mind, what will you do with the remarkable gift of life God has given you? How will your time on Earth contribute to the lives and legacies of future generations?
Lesson #3: Your past begins your journey. Your choices guide your journey. God offers us a destiny. We are not slaves of our family’s past. Earlier, I mentioned my four-times great-grandfather who escaped a death sentence in Ireland. He was a farmer who eventually moved to Nova Scotia to work the land. However, not all of his descendants continued in agriculture. I found an article about him that listed about 16 Catholic priests and several nuns descended from him (the author apparently did not know about a Pentecostal minister from Long Island!), as well as several medical doctors and at least one Canadian member of Parliament.
However, a more impressive heritage awaits those who supplement their earthly ancestry with a heavenly Fatherhood. Although we are all related physically, a special connection is available to those who accept adoption as children of God (Galatians 4:4-5; Roman 8:14-17). We have a bond and legacy that lasts beyond this life, tying us to a perfect heavenly Father, uniting us with His only begotten Son Jesus, filling us with His Holy Spirit, and binding us with all who call upon Him for salvation.
I may not be a farmer, fisherman, police officer, bricklayer, baron, or military hero like some of my ancestors. But, I have a heavenly inheritance awaiting me. Whether prince or pauper, baron or bricklayer, senator or sanitation worker, evangelist or editor, anybody who comes to Christ becomes part of a spiritual lineage that will last forever.
Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.