I puttered around the Internet recently, searching for the exact wording to a quote I vaguely recalled, and as I'm prone to do, allowed myself to get pulled into a cyberspace sinkhole. In this instance, I spent a couple of hours meandering through virtual quote-land -- all sorts of sites devoted to quotations.
Not surprisingly, I decided to see what memorable words had been uttered about genealogy and everything related to it. I've gathered a few to share with you today. Not all are positive and a few of them are downright peculiar, but these are the ones that caught my attention one way or another and I hope you'll find them interesting as well. So here we go -- in no particular order
Simone Weil, French philosopher
To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.
William Lyon Phelps
I am glad my ancestors arrived on the Mayflower, but I am gladder that there are nine generations between us.
When you start about family, about lineage and ancestry, you are talking about every person on earth.
Ambrose Bierce, U.S. author & satirist, 1842-1914
GENEALOGY, n. An account of one's descent from an ancestor who did not particularly care to trace his own.
DEGENERATE, adj. Less conspicuously admirable than one's ancestors.
Walter Lippman, US author & journalist, 1889-1974
Men can know more than their ancestors did if they start with a knowledge of what their ancestors had already learned. . . . That is why a society can be progressive only if it conserves its traditions.
George Bernard Shaw
If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.
Laurence J. Peter
Every man serves a useful purpose. A miser, for example, makes a wonderful ancestor.
Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.
If you ever start feeling like you have the goofiest, craziest, most dysfunctional family in the world, all you have to do is go to a state fair. Because five minutes at the fair, you'll be going, "You know, we're alright. We are dang near royalty."
Alexander Hamilton, "The Farmer Refuted," February 23, 1775, U.S. (Scottish-born) lawyer & politician, 1755-1804
The changes in the human condition are uncertain and frequent. Many, on whom fortune has bestowed her favours, may trace their family to a more unprosperous station; and many who are now in obscurity, may look back upon the affluence and exalted rank of their ancestors.
Douglas Adams, English humorist and science fiction novelist, 1952-2001
Humans are not proud of their ancestors, and rarely invite them round to dinner.
Richard Dawkins, "River out of Eden"
All organisms that have ever lived . . . can look back at their ancestors and make the following proud claim: Not a single one of our ancestors died in infancy. . . Not a single one of our ancestors was felled by an enemy, or by a virus, or by a misjudged footstep on a cliff edge, before bringing at least one child into the world. Thousands of our ancestors' contemporaries failed in all these respects, but not a single solitary one of our ancestors failed in any of them.
Sam Levenson, 1911-1980
The reason grandparents and grandchildren get along so well is that they have a common enemy.
Some families can trace their ancestors back three hundred years, but can't tell you where their children were last night.
Ben Johnson, 1572-1637
Confound these ancestors . . . they've stolen our best ideas!
Thomas Overbury, 1581-1613
The man that hath not anything to boast but his illustrious ancestors is like a potato: the only good belonging to him is underground.
Robert Darwin, to his son Charles (recounted in Darwin's autobiography)
You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat-catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family.
Helen Keller, U.S. blind and deaf educator, 1880-1968
There is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and no slave who has not had a king among his.
We've uncovered some embarrassing ancestors in the not-too-distant past. Some horse thieves, and some people killed on Saturday nights. One of my relatives, unfortunately, was even in the newspaper business.
John Ciardi, U.S. poet, 1916-1986
Gentility is what is left over from rich ancestors after the money is gone.
Heirlooms we don't have in our family. But stories we've got.
Ad slogan "Pepsi Comes Alive" as initially translated into Chinese Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.
In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage--to know who we are and where we came from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness. What Have You Heard?
Not a bad collection for a single online expedition, but I bet some of you reading this have favorite remarks that aren't here. If so, please consider dropping me a line to share them. If I gather enough, I'll share another round of pithy and not-so-pithy comments in a future article. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, co-author (with Ann Turner) of Trace Your Roots with DNA: Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree (as well as In Search of Our Ancestors, Honoring Our Ancestors and They Came to America), can be contacted through www.genealogy.com and www.honoringourancestors.com.
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