Humans are wired to connect with nature and each other, to feel ourselves as a part of a greater story. We have an inexplicable sense that we belong and are deeply connected to the earth and its inhabitants. Discovering your ancestors and your ancestral lineage can help you understand your place in this world, feel empowered by the amazing stories of those who came before you, and embrace your modern life in new ways.
There is magic hidden within the stories of our ancestors. In a world where we are constantly losing our connection to the wildness and mystery of life, it may feel that we’ve lost the ability to remember where we come from. But when you cultivate a sense of ancestral belonging, you tap into a magnetic vortex of memory; a place where a sense of home exists within you and within your bones.
This post is an invitation to remember your belonging here on earth and the deep wildness inside you, as well as the DNA of your ancestral lineage that still lives in your cells. When you realize all these things, much of your longing to feel home begins to melt away.
What do you picture?
When You Think of your ancestors, What do you picture?
Maybe it’s your grandparents or great-grandparents. Perhaps it’s the people who are most important in your life right now. But what if there were more than that? What if “ancestry” wasn’t just about your direct family line, but also about affinity ancestors—those you share a connection with based on vocation, cultural identity, or even spiritual practice?
Ancestry also encompasses ancient dead ancestors—the ones you’ll never know the names of and the unremembered ancestors of your “affinity lineage”. And then there are the more-than-human ancestors from the mushroom kingdom, the ancient trees, and the infinite cosmos. All of it is connected to the very fiber of our being, ours to remember and claim as home.
How Do i connect more deeply to my ancestral lineage?
How can I connect to the soil, plants, and animals of my ancestors? How can I use the results of an ancestry test to translate them into real wisdom? How do I find ancestral connections beyond modern-day national borders? Reconnecting to your ancestral lineage is remembering that you belong.
Exploring one’s ancestral lineage can be a lifelong treasure hunt. As you move from one clue to the next, bits, and pieces of information about your ancestors will unfold. Below are 11 ways to help you connect with your ancestral lineage.
Connecting With your ancestral roots
1) Take a DNA test
I recommend taking a genealogy test to discover your ancestral roots. This has been an enlightening experience for me, showing me how my ancestors migrated from one place to another, and how they came together over time to create my unique heritage.
DNA is one of the best ways to link individuals to their ancestors on a large timescale. Its ability to reconstruct relationships over millennia, and over thousands of miles, make it a powerful tool for revealing human history. It can tell us who our ancestors were, and where they lived. It can even tell us how our species has changed in response to the environments we have lived in over tens of thousands of years. From this perspective, you could view yourself as a link in a chain that stretches back into deep time and across the globe. That deep history is worth celebrating.
2) Study the Land Your Ancestors Inhabited
A key component of reconnecting with your ancestral lineage is to learn the history, culture, and geography of the land from where your ancestors came from. This will help you get a better understanding of what life was like for them, who was in power when they lived there, and where their ancestors came from prior to that. Learning about the land you come from will help bring you closer to your sense of place so that you can better understand who you truly are.
Your soul is connected to the land of your ancestors like an umbilical cord. Living in a way that honors and respects where you come from, who your ancestors were and what they stood for, will help you deepen your connection and your understanding of ancestral lineage.
3) Record Your Family's Stories
I know that for some of you, it may be impossible to connect with your ancestral lines through the oral history of family members. You may have been adopted, or maybe you have consciously separated from your family to protect your mental health and wellbeing. If that’s you, go ahead and skip this section, knowing you still have so many ways to connect to your ancestral lines. This certainly isn’t the only way to connect. But if you have access to oral or written accounts, find a way to record these memories. Learning these stories and etch them upon your heart. Safeguard them for future generations so that these stories are not lost like so many of the stories before.
4) Search Public Records
We live in a time when we can uncover secrets of our ancestors through public records. Start by getting a trial account on Ancestry.com and doing some research there. Some libraries offer ancestry software free of charge, and they may even have large collections of genealogy resources. Within five minutes of searching, I was able to find my great-grandfather’s immigration record for his passage from Poland to Ellis Island in 1913. I then traced his migration through Canada until he settled in Connecticut to farm. The Mormon church also keeps detailed records that anyone can access. I also encourage you to check out what The Suppressed History Archives has to offer.
5) Build an Ancestral Altar
Ancestral altars are powerful tools for reflecting on those who came before you, and they can help you connect with ancestors in the spirit realm. This altar could look like anything, so don’t get too caught up in how it’s supposed to look or how many things to put on it or anything like that.
Consider your ancestral lineages and indigenous systems of thought while setting up your ancestral altar. How do you align yourself with the elements? How do they influence your spirituality?
Honor your deceased family members or others who have passed on. Place photos, heirlooms and other mementos on the altar along with several votive candles. Light the candles in memory of the people you honor, saying their names aloud and express well-wishes. Sit quietly for a while and focus on what you experience.
6) Learn the Food-Ways of Your Ancestors
One way to get in touch with your roots is by focusing on the food traditions of your ancestors. The internet can provide us a window into history and different culinary traditions. Learn about some of the most important traditions and foods that your ancestors might have enjoyed. With this knowledge, put together a celebratory meal to share with family.
7) Immerse Yourself in Your Heritage Through Literature
The body of literature created by people who share a distinctive culture, language, or religion is called ethnic literature. Reading this kind of literature can help us gain a glimpse into life from the perspective of others who share the same heritage. Do some research online to find literature that represents your heritage or visit your local public library or university library, to look for and read some ethnic literature.
8) Discover the Art of Your Ancestors
Explore the world of traditional crafts by learning about the handicrafts and folk arts of your ancestors. Handicrafts include a wide variety of types of work where useful and decorative objects are made completely by hand or by using only simple tools. Folk art refers to art produced from an indigenous culture or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic. Both often have cultural and/or religious significance.
9) Enjoy the Music & Dance of Your Ancestors
As you learn about your heritage, try to learn songs and dances that have been passed down from generation to generation. Singing and dancing can be a great way to connect with people who share a similar heritage. It’s part of what makes us human: the ability to pass on knowledge from one person to another. It’s in our songs and dances, which often reflect important cultural values, beliefs, and history. And it helps keep those lifelines alive for future generations.
Many traditional songs have been sung within the same family or ethnic community for generations. They can sometimes be traced back to such places of origin as Great Britain, Europe, and Africa; other homelands reflecting America’s diverse cultural heritage.
10) Connect With Your Ancestors through Language
Language is the soul of a culture, and the loss of a language can be devastating. Immigrants brought their native tongues to the United States, but when English gained more importance, many families stopped speaking their ancestral language. You can rediscover your roots by learning your ancestors’ native tongue.
While it may not be possible to become fluent in your ancestral language, learning even a few phrases and perhaps a song or two is a great gift. You can find so many tutorials and videos on YouTube today.
11) Go on Ancestral Pilgrimage
If you can, visit the ancestral lands of your people. Touch the soil, drink from the wells, eat the food, and breathe in the air. Do some research before you go so that you can plan to visit places of importance to your ancient ancestors like holy wells, sacred burial sites, and gathering spaces. See if you can visit the village one of your ancestors was born in. Doing so gives you a depth of connection with those places that is incredibly powerful.
By going within to discover your own ancestral lineage, you may surprise yourself with what you find out. By connecting to your ancestors in this way, you may find that incredible source of belonging that has been missing your whole life. It is an essential practice for us today, a way to heal our lost connection to the earth and each other. It can help us realize a love for where we are on this planet that we may have never thought possible before.
The main takeaway from this post is that ancestral lineage can be deeply meaningful for many of us, especially for those of us who don’t have such a strong sense of heritage and feel far removed from their cultural roots. Ideally, connecting to your ancestors might give you a stronger feeling of self. For some people it will, I think, but not for everyone. At the very least, though, it can be an interesting way to boost your sense of self-awareness and learn something new about yourself.