UnKnotting the Ties By Tricia Hague-Barrett 2017
Our Spiritual Genealogy
I was sent my spiritual genealogy by my spiritual grandmother Karin Ferguson, who was a pioneer to Belize a few years ago, and this has inspired me to try to encourage others to find out their own spiritual genealogy. The “Who Taught Who” concept has me wondering how we are going to make it possible for Archivists of the future to put together the information of the early believers. It never occurred to me to look at this without this message from her for it would have been too hard for me personally to trace back through these souls from way down here in New Zealand.
⇒Lua Getsinger (Herald of The Covenant) (The Flag) taught Ella Robarts, who was Auntie to Douglas Martin. (No Image found)
⇐Ella taught John Robarts, Hand of the Cause of God. (John Robarts last Contingent appointed was 2nd Oct, 1957; d. 1901-1991.)
⇒John Robarts taught Elizabeth Martin, wife of Douglas Martin. Douglas Martin later became an elected member of the Universal House of Justice serving from
⇐Betty Martin taught Karin Ferguson, who was to Pioneer to Belize with her husband,
and who is currently living in Canada.
⇒Karin Ferguson, taught Mac & Barbara McLellan, of New York, who later pioneered to Palmerston North, New Zealand in 1973.
⇐Mac McLellan taught Tricia Kite, (nee Hague) b.09-11-1945 Carterton, Wairarapa. I was an atheist, having accepted Christ prior to learning about the Bahá’í Faith. I lived in Palmerston North, in the North Island of New Zealand. The date of my declaration was 21-4-1973 at 10:45am. (Anyone who became a Bahá’ís in my home, are in this spiritual line.) See my genealogy chart in PDF format here.
Sadly there is some difficulty obtaining photos of Ella Robarts.
Now, just imagine for a moment that this is the year 2217, (B.E.374).
You, whoever you are, have just been appointed as an Historian for your community (200 years from now), and you have been asked to try to write a history of the spread of the Faith throughout the early stages of its development in your city. It has been hard enough to find out about your own spiritual genealogy, and for the most part you don’t know what it is. The early believers, the Persian friends have records of who their ancestors were, and which ones were followers of The Báb, and which ones came into the Faith in the years of Bahá’u’lláh. They are fully aware of which relatives were martyred, and those who are in prison.
It’s nearly four hundred years since the Birth of both the Prophet Herald of the Bahá’í Faith, The Báb, and the Prophet Founder, Bahá’u’lláh. A lot of water has gone under the bridge. Communities are huge, and the confidential records of the Spiritual Assemblies are not available to help in the mapping process.
“Where do I start?” your mind says.
“Where are the records that I can use to find out about this?”
“What records are available for me to look at?”
Early on, individuals and communities began archiving important information not having the foresight, means, or knowledge of how to obtain and care for documents for long-term storage; these records having been lost completely, as they laid rotting in boxes in the garages of the early Bahá’ís, damaged by decay from over exposure to air and light or through unfortunate acts of nature such as flooding, fire, mold, and of course the occasional critters. National News Letters were not very detailed.
In 1975, 242 years ago, when the first personal computers made their debut with the e MITS Altair 8800, followed by the IMSAI 8080, and of course the Amiga500 computers were being used for gaming and basic typing. It would be decades before computers were used as a way to archive documents. Unfortunately, computer crashes and viruses destroyed many of these records. To solve this problem the use of floppy disks, CD’s and flash drives would become a standard way to backup important files.
Perusing back those centuries ago through the National and Local Archives, one gets a small window into how the earlier believers taught the Faith and founded the Baha’i communities we see today in 2217, though not enough has been recorded or survived to be able to see the distance back to the first Bahá’í in that community. Oh some communities know those details, and some also recorded people like Martha Root saying a prayer. Elderly Bahá’ís were not interviewed on video.
Take the time of the 10 Year Crusade for instance, the Knights of Bahá’u’lláh were the first believers in a lot of places in the world. Were accurate records produced and archived as to the names, ages and residence of new declarants? Even in 2017, did the believers notify their local and national institutions when they moved? (A discussion for another time)
What do we have to help in the search for historical information?
Reports from Pioneers?
You may as a historian in 2217, realize that your job has been made difficult by the fact that the individual(s) assigned in the community to archive records lacked the knowledge and skills which included:
- evaluating, selecting, retrieving and arranging materials
- answering enquiries
- organising publicity events such as talks and exhibitions
- making the archives accessible to a wide range of users
- storing and preserving perishable documents
- producing teaching materials
What did those Friends know about keeping personal, let alone community written recordings of events and names? Did they even realize that perhaps future believers would want to know their spiritual lineage and vignettes? There was of course guidance from the Universal House of Justice in this matter, and a small booklet was published. Compilations : Guidance Regarding Bahá’í Archives. In this document, there were letters addressed to individuals as well as Spiritual Assemblies, but the following does not address personal records of one’s teaching and community life, however, it does show us how important it is to not lose this information.
From a letter dated 5 July 1935 to an individual
National archives are in the process of formation in Egypt, Persia, Germany, America and India. As soon as these national archives are established, local archives will be formed under the direct supervision of the Local Assemblies.
From a letter dated 10 June 1936 to a National Spiritual Assembly
Regarding the preservation of relics associated with `Abdu’l-Bahá, the general principle should be that any object used by Him in person should be preserved for posterity, whether in the local or the national archives. It is the duty and responsibility of the Bahá’í Assemblies to ascertain carefully whether such objects are genuine or not, and to exercise the utmost care and caution in this matter.
28 July 1936 to a National Spiritual Assembly
The importance of the institution of Bahá’í Archives is not due only to the many teaching facilities it procures, but is essentially to be found in the vast amount of historical data and information it offers both to the present-day administrators of the Cause, and to the Bahá’í historians of the future. The institution of Bahá’í Archives is indeed a most valuable storehouse of information regarding all the aspects of the Faith, historical, administrative as well as doctrinal. Future generations of believers will be surely in a better position than we are to truly and adequately appreciate the many advantages and facilities which the institution of the Archives offers to individual believers and also to the community at large.
Now that the Cause is rapidly passing through so many different phases of its evolution is the time for the friends to exert their utmost in order to preserve as much as they can of the sacred relics and various other precious objects that are associated with the lives of the Founders of the Faith, and particularly the Tablets They have revealed.
Every believer should realize that he has a definite responsibility to shoulder in this matter, and to help, to whatever extent he can, in rendering successful the valuable work which National and Local Bahá’í Archives Committees are so devotedly accomplishing for the Faith in America.
From a letter dated 25 September 1936 to a National Spiritual Assembly
He thinks that when things are collected for the archives as much information as possible should be given about them. It is easier now, while the old Bahá’ís dating from the early days of the Cause in America are still living, to collect accurate information than it will be later on, and every attempt should be made to amplify local records and accumulate historical data.
From a letter dated 25 November 1948 to an individual
It is very important that the old Bahá’ís should accurately record their experiences with the Master, and events in the Cause’s progress, for these things form data for future histories of the Cause. They have not, however, the authority of the revealed Word or the Tablets, etc.
From a letter dated 23 July 1985 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual
While the House of Justice requests your National Spiritual Assembly to give every encouragement to … in spearheading the collection of such materials from the children of early believers in your country, you should impress upon them that ultimately such archival material should be deposited in your National Archives. Time is of the essence, and the sooner a systematic effort is undertaken to collect material such as tablets to the early believers, diaries, old photographs properly identified, and correspondence with the prominent early believers, the more productive it will be. Many of the important historic documents may have already been destroyed by the descendants of early believers who do not realize their importance.
So where to go from here?
If there is a current list of the Friends in your community, there seems to be only one way to solve this mystery. Ask the friends today, when they became Bahá’ís? Ask them who taught them, getting names, places and dates and circumstances under which it took place? Interview the Friends whenever you can, try to obtain information about events that took place. Firesides, deepenings, funerals, Burial sites are important as well. Record the stories that come to hand. Make a website suitable for people to give the information now, before it’s too late.
Ask to see if there is someone in your community who can create an app for people to use to insert their date of declaration, and the date they were accepted into the Faith by an institution. Make it possible for people to say what kind of event they were at when they first heard of the Faith, eg, Fireside, and year. Public Meeting, Devotional Meeting, etc. Encourage others to seek out and document their spiritual lineage so they can pass it forward to their spiritual children. What are we waiting for? Time is of the essence after all.
Please share what you maybe doing to help others.