Why Genealogy Matters (To Me and To You)

Many people could not care less about their ancestors. That is okay, but I am not one of those people. (If I were, then I guess I wouldn’t spend all of this time on this blog.)

Some people who didn’t find family history of importance when they were younger find it of interest when their parents are gone. Some have family secrets that could only be explored once older relatives had died.

Some people think we’re all crazy, and they’re probably right.

My second and final (ex-)husband is one of those people. While we were married, he said to me enough times, “What are you doing now? Diggin’ up graves, again?” And so I named this blog “Diggin’ Up Graves” because of that. I think it works.

On the plus side, though, he humored me (just last week) and paid for over half the cost of getting his parents’ DNA tested. I do it for the children – my step-kids.

So why genealogy, aside from the chip in my brain that pulls me in that direction? I guess I do it for the children, the grandchildren, the cousins, nieces, and nephews, and all who come after me who want to know. For that stranger who will be my 1st cousin 7x removed about 200 years from now who will say, “Wow, she really knew what she was doing!” (No, not really, but strokes are nice, I suppose.)

I’ve been doing this since I was 18 (that’s over 30 years), wanted to be a genealogist when I grew up (getting paid would have been nice), became a software engineer instead (uses a similar part of the brain – digging for ancestors is sort of like digging for bugs in a program) because making money was somewhat of a priority.

I have twice ordered the books required to pursue a CG. I have all the books the professionals use. And now that the tumultuous 2014 year is over, over, OVER, this year will be about getting organized again: digging out the boxes and folders; printing out or scanning in documents (I haven’t decided which); renting a safe deposit box for photos (and my property tax exemption forms); and, maybe busting that one brick wall – whichever one it may be – that will make this old fat body jump up and down (once or twice) and do a happy dance (which would then require about three days of rest and maybe one or two Vicodins because of my stupid fibromyalgia). But can I have everything? Dang right I can!

So why genealogy? Why not racquetball or antiquing or skydiving? Why genealogy, with its frustrations and brick walls and sometimes grumpy county clerks and burned courthouses and roadblocking record laws? Why genealogy, with cats laying across my folders in the late 1980s to across my laptop in 2015? When I had to decide in college which was more important – that one Johnson ancestor or finishing that day’s calculus homework. I don’t know – which would you choose?

So Happy New Year to my old and new friend, Genealogy, with your quirks and stuffiness and contrary attitudes.

Happy New Year, Genealogy! You have brought me forward every year toward a better understanding of Elizabeth’s prehistoric past, and a deeper understanding of myself.

But most of all, you have given me the ability to understand people, and the decisions they make, and even sometimes a hint of why they made those decisions. Regardless of whether or not these historic people are actually my ancestors, I can see them in me and me in them.

Compassion, empathy, love, and understanding have tagged along with all of this digging and researching and grave tromping and courthouse sniffing.

Why genealogy? It started out of curiosity. It continued because I became addicted. And now, I suppose I do it because it’s not finished. I have a job to do – one that I began when I was 18 with an unspoken commitment that I would carry on until it is complete.

A complete genealogy is not one that goes back as far as possible. It is one that, however far it goes, is thorough, has reasonably exhausted sources, has documented its knowledge and sources and unanswered questions, and is ready for the next genealogist to pick up.

Genealogy matters to me because if you are reading this, it may matter to you, too. And if it matters to you, then what I do and how I do it as a genealogist matters.

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2 Responses to Why Genealogy Matters (To Me and To You)

  1. Elizabeth, very entertaining! My favorites lines were:
    “A complete genealogy is not one that goes back as far as possible. It is one that, however far it goes, is thorough, has reasonably exhausted sources, has documented its knowledge and sources and unanswered questions, and is ready for the next genealogist to pick up.”
    Good luck on opening doors in your brick walls in 2015! Blogging really helps you put things in perspective and I believe you will be seeing the other side of more than one brick wall this year. Happy New Year

    Like

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