HOOKED on GENEALOGY
The Genealogy Pages of
--taken from a series of messages posted by Shirley Maynard of Hampton, VA, between 4-16-93 and 6-2-93 to the National Genealogy Conference on FIDONET [electronic bulletin board service]. Collected and edited by Wally Garchow--
How can we not be subjective when we are researching ourselves? I don't want to be an apologist for the sinners in my past--lord knows they only proved themselves human, not saints. I don't want to romanticize them, either, or psychoanalyze them. I simply want to present them -- warts, beauty marks, and all. I call myself a family historian. I become a genealogist when I do the basic research for others, the bones, and give it to them to 'flesh' out themselves, because it will be -their- family history and they are their own family historians.
Nothing stands alone, certainly not genealogy. You simply have to know the history of a time and place to understand the personal history. The number of children that died for many years after the Civil War. My grandmother lost 3 to diptheria. The pollution of ground water from the war, the lack of good medical care in the south: the old and the young suffer first.
Grandma's first husband was killed in the coal mines. Tough luck, lady. You have a kid? Too bad." Why should the owners do anything? It was an accident. Second husband dying of throat cancer. Mine owners said, Tough luck, lady. He can't work for us; why should we care?' The history of the coal mines and union activities needs to be studied here to get the whole picture. He and his three children are buried under a wheat field. The farmer says to the granddaughter, "Tough luck, lady!" He bought the land and he can do what he wants with it. That's 'fleshing' out the bones, isn't it?
Feel their pain. Deaths in the family? Children? Local events? County and state? National, international? What hurt them? What gave them pleasure? Again, the history, both personal and local. Births, weddings. Depressions, recessions, inflations. "Back home" events. Deeds will tell you their financial histories. Church records will tell you whom they mourned or celebrated. Court records will tell you how well they got along with their neighbors or civil authorities. In other words become your ancestors. Make them real to you, then make them real to others by writing about them.
They left their settled homelands and moved to a new land where many dangers faced them and their children. "Back home" was seething with wars and rumors of wars. Fear for their folk back home. Fear for their children in the new land, far from conveniences and amenities. Traditions. Cling to the familar, the church, and family. And work.
We have no idea of the unremitting labor it took for the first settlers to just survive. What did they do to survive? Unless they were wealthy and could have certain goods shipped over, they had to do without or make it themselves. What would they do for fun? Church, sing, dance (if religion permitted it), tell stories, visit, make descendants. See, they're already' fleshed' out a bit, aren't they? Two people with names and a date and a wedding event have become more real. They joined together with faith there was a future for them in the new world.
I really and truly love all my ancestors, even those whose names I don't have. They are real people to me. My immigrants left parents behind who knew they'd never see their children again or have a share in their grandchildren's lives and fate. They buried their parents and then were buried themselves. See? Flesh.
YOU are the center of infinity. Nothing proves this more than genealogy. Here you are searching your past for ancestors and your present for cousins and your future for descendants. Even if your tree should lose it's fruit, someone somewhere has a cutting from your ultimate root and the tree will grow fruit elsewhere.
It's okay to look for immortality in genealogy. We do it in religion,
we do it in fame and fortune and buildings of stone and clay, we do it
in writing, we do it in producing children. What's in a name? The
ancients knew. The secrets of the universe. "Old Whatsisname?" is
What was Adam's first important act that separated him from the animals? He gave them names and became the master of his universe. Give your ancestors their rightful names and allow them to become masters of their universes once again. Allow them to rise from their anonymous mists to become fleshed once again, to give them due honor in your own life that led you to the center of your universe.
Question: How many list subscribers does it take to change a light bulb?
WARNING: Genealogy Pox is very contagious to adults.
SYMPTOMS: Continual complaint as to need for names, dates, and places. Patient has a blank expression,, sometimes deaf to spouse and children. Has no taste for work of any kind except feveriously looking through records at the library and courthouse. Has compulsion to write letters. Swears at the mailman when he does not leave mail. Frequents strange places, such as cemeteries, ruins, and remote desolate cemetery areas. Makes secret night calls, hides telephone bills from spouse. The patient mumbles to himself and has a strange faraway look in his eyes.
TREATMENT: Medication is useless. Disease is not fatal but grows progressively worse. Patient should attend genealogy workshops, subscribe to genealogy magazines and be given a quiet corner in the house where he or she works alone.
REMARKS: The unusual nature of this disease is the sicker the patient gets, the more he or she enjoys it.
NO KNOWN CURE
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