The trip started with a simple offer from my mom to join her and my brother for her 82nd birthday to visit the Bahamas. It ended up becoming a life changing event for me. In the moment she made the offer, it would have been easier to say no for a lot of reasons. Instead, in a mood of adventure I accepted, perhaps a trait I inherited from my soon-to-be-discovered pirate lineage!
My mom wanted to learn more about her family, and through Ancestry.com, she discovered many of them had settled in the Bahamas on Harbour Island—3.5 miles long by ½-mile wide—an exquisite island caught in time about 90 nautical miles from Nassau. Thinking pink sands, Gombay smashes, and an adventure with my family, little did I know what I was about to discover.
As our story goes, our family sailed from the West Indies and shipwrecked on the coral reef in a place called Preacher’s Cave. They swam ashore and set up shop on Harbour Island. Being opportunists, they soon realized that other ships fell to a similar fate. Known as “Wreckers,” they became pirates who helped themselves to shipwrecked goods stranded on the reef. At one point, someone tried to put up a lighthouse, but not surprising, the Wreckers shut it down.
Thankfully one ancestor, a descendant by marriage, Antonio Ennis, changed the trajectory of our family’s identify. When a slave ship became wrecked on the reef, Antonio went out and freed two children from their chains. He adopted them, gave them his last name and released them from slavery. From that time on, the Ennis family became known for their generosity, caring, and service. Today the Bahamian islands are known for service, gratitude and hospitality.
I’m also relieved to say that rather than pirating other people’s boats, my ancestors figured out how to build their own. In the 1880s, they modified the hull design of the local boats and built their own wooden schooners known for their simplicity, strength, and sea kindliness. Today their boats are world renowned for their round bottom hull design, some of which are still manufactured by hand in the Abacos. My mother is a direct descendant of Melissa Albury, her great great grandmother. It is said that my middle name, Aubre, was passed down through generations and is a derivative of the Albury name.
The Gift of a Simple Offer
With the holiday season upon us, and families gathering around the dinner table, I am reminded of the gift of a simple offer . . . one you can make that serves the concerns of your family members . . and the unpredictable joy that emerges out of the gratitude. Offers we receive from others, or the ones we make ourselves, have the power to change lives and perhaps even find a new identity.