"Just Do It"
Welcome to my little world of genealogy as it relates to me.
Thoughts about Ancestors
Wading thru reams of repetitive and mind-numbing data gives one pause... time to think about the people we search for... not the names on registers but the just-plain-folk characters... when a child is born to your 6g grandmother a year before she gets married, you have to wonder about her worries... her stigma... her hush-hushings among the family... her pride... and her lust. It is this that i believe we search for. Sure, we want dates and verifiable census data, but when we hear tales of how, for instance, my great grandmother "Polly" Anne Fuller unselfishly traveled around the hills of SW Virginia helping victims during the spinal meningitis epidemic of 1929 (really only making them comfortable before death - and tempting the very same disease to get her), and then reading a poem that a relative wrote about it... this is the stuff of imagination.
Genealogists wade thru the dusty minds and
dustier attics of their relatives in search of clues. We are
like forensic children hoping to find a document to turn
over and over in our hands - somewhere between scientists,
clerks and miners. I am reminded that the Native Americans
teach us to revere our ancestors, to call on them in our
quest for spirit and power. To draw on their experiences as
our own. (And isn't it ironic that many of the 'white
people' in our family lines, including mine, were ashamed of
any Indian blood that we had - instead of in today's world
we're busy declaring ourselves 1/16 Cherokee Indian as a
badge of honor). It is this combined sense of play and
reverence that we approach genealogy.
Acknowledging the Work of Those That Came Before
The Role of Clerks and Bean-Counters in Back Offices
We owe a great deal to the clerks of the world.
Not to mention scribes writing ship-lists, census takers,
court stenographers and even insurance claims-adjusters.
Sometimes it is only thru these people, concealed by their
regularity and unknown or even considered necessary evils to
our ancestors, that we find out even the existence of an
additional child or of a move out west.
The Role of Family Historians and Area Genealogists
A mood of nostalgia follows our heels as we
move laboriously thru the great generations. The wars, the
struggles, the wrestling of our sustenance from the ground
as farmers, are terrible tribulations while they are
happening, but afterwards, a scant generation or so, become
the stuff that's told around campfires and hearths and serve
to remind us that no matter how tough it is for the moment
that, in the words of Carly Simon "These ARE the good ol'
The Role of the Internet
Think globally, act locally. The internet causes people to exist without time and space. I know several webpages that haven't been updated for years and yet they are 'out there' annoying me still in my web-searches. It is information that is like a stillborn child. The internet is a strange place.
Maybe the internet is a kind of library that you skate thru and grab at books and parts of magazines that seem important. Someday when search-engines are personal and hobby-bots diligently fetch important data and groom it as would a faithful dog, then it will be more sane. Then again we hope not sane-itized, but we will all be hyperLinked! My family tree will dovetail (and agree more) with yours and when you click on a link you'll have to decide whose information you want (instead of what information). But i digress (as i usually do)...
Currently the internet is awash with genealogical data. There are even ancestor sites and everybody seems to want to put up the most information about their families and their research. It's good. And confusing. And probably an awful lot of 'wrongness' out there. This form of entropy is being combated by the data groomers out there. These people and their sites and commitments are the future of the internet if it is to survive its analogy to television.
There are, however, a great deal of people i
cannot thank because what they do is so far behind the
scenes it's impossible to know. These are the people that
put together sites like the Social Security Death Index
(SSDI) and the multitudes of people whose
time is volunteered (or even poorly paid) for involvement in
the worldwide GenWeb project throughout the United
States, and the
GenServ, even places like the US Geological
Survey USGS - all of which i try to provide links
to because what they do is important even if i weren't
playing 'family tree.' The more obvious people whom i thank
are in my references and show in the links to personal
websites and personal genealogical sites.
The Role of Photos
Photos are windows of the imagination. The moment a picture is snapped, that moment becomes memory. A frozen tic of time as if time could be captured. We forget that time is not a thing at all but a process - as if it could be a string of moments, but i digress as i usually do.
Where i meant to go with this is that a photo of the past is something different than the moment itself. 90% of the time we are aware that a picture is going to be taken, and that's even more true with photos of the past whose economics and slow film speeds mandated the cry "Ok! Everyone get in close for picture!" People 'posed' and cut up for the camera and wanted to be preserved. I think it tells volumes about how they felt about themselves and their role, their posture in the world. I love examining old photographs for the mundane, the lazy dog in the background, the scuff marks on the boot, the forced relaxedness despite the clenched fist by the side. Photos are as much what got me started on this journey as the passing away of kin, at least originally.
And what i mostly want to say about pictures will be in the form of a stern and heartfelt warning. Go mark the back of your photos now. No, right now. Turn off your computer and march right over to the top of the closet and slide out that musty-smelling shoe-box and grab a permanent felt-tip pen and start writing. And not just the photos that are a line of 8 heads at the last family reunion, but the ones that show life! Because my father passed away within a month of his father, i inherited not only a sad legacy but several boxes of black and white photos of people i cannot connect. In most of them i cannot tell you a visiting preacher from a great grandfather, or some neighbor kid from my grandma as a child.
Diane (my cousin who shares all this family stuff with me - and about whom you will know more and more indirectly) and i were lamenting this very problem while going thru a box of (mostly unmarked) pictures of her life. One relative who sent her pictures wrote something on the back of everything and we began to look for her pictures to see what she had to say. On the back of a picture of eight cows and 2 calves facing the same direction (as cows are wont to do) she wrote: "Uncle Zebediah's cows looking hungrily to the left towards the barn just before Zeb was about to feed them. June 1967" Diane admitted that she hadn't realized that cows had that much on their minds. After the laughter i realized that this relative wasn't a frustrated author but someone who cared about about reference. Someone who wanted us to know that it was summer and what that smelled like and that there were things beyond the picture that were just as important as the picture itself.
Because you are now busy marking photos on your
kitchen table i'll wait here.... but if i could tell you one
thing as you hum Paul Simon's Kodachrome with your felt-tip
ablaze, i'd ask you to give a moments thought as each
picture flashes in front of you. "Who took the picture?"
It's someone who was there too, you know.
The Role of other things
I'm sure the role of family traditions, and of
children and teachers, and other things like oral
story-telling fit in here somewhere, but i'm a little tired
of typing. Maybe tomorrow.
Thoughts about Intermarrying
Well, what's the big deal? Well.... it seems the Sutherland side of my ancestry lived up in the hills and hollers of Southwest Virginia, in old Russell County (what is mostly Dickenson, Wise and Buchanan counties now) and the 'available spouse base' or 'eligible husband/wife pool' from which to select a spouse was pretty limited.
The truth is, I am my own 3rd cousin. How is that possible? Well, depending on which route you follow, my family goes back to several large families that i am related to in different ways. For example, my GGGGrandfather, Richard "Fighting Dick" Colley had at least 7 children - three of which i can call Great Great Grandparents. And because generations don't happen in structured and ordered (time-wise) ways, i have GGGrandmothers marrying GGUncles. It blurs the idea that traits tend to 'skip generations'. Traits (such as being overly verbose - some may suspect) show up when and where they decide to. Several of my various grandmothers didn't have to change their maiden names when they got married, so we're considered a 'loving family' i guess. I personally don't go to family reunions to cruise for chicks, however. It's funny. My dear grandmother Maxine, as she grew older found this intermarrying to be a source of embarrassment for her and did little things to obfuscate the fact that she married her 2nd cousin. We found out anyway.
Along those lines, there seems to have been some degree of concern among my family about whether i, as the first grandchild of 2nd cousins, was going to turn out to be some kind of functional idiot or a scatterbrained genius. Well, double-hmmph. The debate hasn't as yet been resolved. I find it interesting that i myself have, at various times thru the years, taken both sides of this thorny issue.
Above is the
It's not that
i don't like
NOT UNDER CONSTRUCTION...
IT IS EVOLVING.
Member of GenServ
I got started
The USGenWeb Project has been berry berry good to me...
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