Personal-Everyday ChaosPivotal Moments

family, bagpipes and strength | jen mcken photography

By March 29, 2012 4 Comments

This isn’t a blog about photography…..and besides the one picture I have below it’s not going to have a ton of pretty pictures. It’s just a blog post into the everyday chaos of what I like to call “my life”. It’s a story of character, strength, and perseverance…..which in my book earns major respect.

Roughly, 100 years ago, they owned a 300 acre farm not far from where I currently live. Soon after her husband died, she came to the harsh realization that she was not going to be able to sustain the farm and support her 5 children entirely on her own. Her only choice was to leave the two boys with local farmers to work for room and board while she took the girls back with her to Philadelphia. She worked and worked and worked until she saved up enough money to move back to Indiana to reunite with her boys and reclaim the farm that was originally hers…….this is the story (in a nutshell) of my great, great, great grandparents.

You know, if I’m being 100% completely honest, I’ve always lived by the ” you can pick your friends but not your relatives”-I think you can all relate in some form or fashion that we all have “those” people in the family that we may not “claim as our own” and I say this in a joking manner….but you get my point. With that being said, there are some blood relatives that I have chosen to separate myself from as a form of protecting myself from negative energy, if you will. But yet, whilst I have made this decision, they are still my family and you could say that they’re meant to be in my life for a reason, right? I should be grateful, as there are a lot of people who don’t even know who their family is, especially if they were put up for adoption at a young age. It must be heartbreaking. My family means the world to me, and so I wouldn’t be surprised if they looked for DNA testing in Orlando FL so they could find out once and for all who they are. I think I’d do the same thing if I didn’t know who my father was or something; I’d just have to know. Even though I’m grateful that I know my family, I think it’s the best thing for me that I separate myself from some members.. for my own sanity. And for that reason, there is a lot of information that I’m not quite knowledgeable about- some of that being my family tree or the story of how my family migrated here from Ireland (or so we think) or is it Scotland? haha. Regardless, I think we all have that instinctive desire to “belong” to something. I had the chance to fill in a lot of missing gaps about “who I am, where I come from” just this afternoon. While I’m still trying to digest everything I learned today, it really has given me the chance to be proud of my last name. You see, for many years, I’ve always struggled with being PROUD of my last name “McKendrick”. There were people along the way that have tarnished the name (at least in my mind) and today someone named John shined it back up for me!

It all started from a simple email I received from John, who has been (for years) researching his family which brought him back to good old Indiana, Pa where *I* just happen to live! Because the bullying article had made it’s way around the world and caught the attention of a few people, it gave him a form of contact for someone back in the town. A few emails later, we met up for lunch at an Irish Pub with my distant cousin and his lovely wife…..and his two brothers Henry and William (you were lovely too! haha)! While we exchanged stories, family history and family photos….I could tell that these folks were on a mission. John, who loves history, has been on a genealogical search for many years trying to research the family tree. In fact, they traveled the whole way to small town Indiana, PA to search through the historical society to scour through any and all documents for any bit of information that would help. After lunch, they were heading to the courthouse to look for additional information. BUT the part that “got me” and really touched my heart was that they were traveling to the cemetery where Samuel McKendrick and Jane McBeth McKendrick (My great great great grandparents) were buried to play a tribute song for them on his bagpipes….all the way from Virginia, with songs of their motherland. 🙂

I had a great time with these guys sharing laughs, a few stories and it was great to be “jennifer mckendrick” instead of “jen mcken”…with people, I’m proud to call “my family” ! 🙂

Pictured below are my 4th cousins: Henry, William, myself and John 🙂 William has come the whole way from France to help out in the search, while Henry and John live in the Virginia and DC area! 🙂 And they didn’t come without bearing gifts! William and his wife happen to be in a traditional Celtica musical group and brought me their latest cd. I’m listening to it as I type this and it takes me back to my travels to Ireland this past year! Check’em out here:





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  • TINA HAMMER says:

    This is a beautiful story!!! Thanks so much for sharing it with me.

  • John Ickes says:

    Jen, I’m so sorry it took me this long to find your blog. I’m reading this and choking up because of what you said. You are ‘way toooooooo kind! If I may add a little postscript to your narrative… it was a delightful day for us, too, to find “kin” and discover that she was just exactly the sort of person you hope shares your genealogy. Your sense of humor, your candor and your incredibly high sense of ethics and behavior are the things of which we still speak. When I tell you that the doors in Virginia Beach are wide, wide open any time you choose to head this way… it comes from the heart! McKendricks Forever!

  • Jen McKen says:

    <3 :-)

  • Jen McKen says:

    I came across this blog today, and looking at the picture, I can’t believe how “fluffy” I was. 🙂 This was a great day! <3

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