When I was twelve I took a family history class – only it wasn’t actually called Family History. At that time it was referred to a genealogy. (Boring name; must be why they changed it) I was the only youth in the class. The instructor was early 40s – possibly late 30s. The rest of the class members were all over the age of 50.
Things were done on legal size paper. There were Xerox machines (photocopiers) and pens. No PAF, Ancestry.com, Google, etc. I would imagine doing family research is so much easier now than back then.
My instructor had been raised in a foster care system and had always had a strong sense of getting to know and understand her family. It was a very long process.
I understand why family history is so important to her. To have a connection. And when she did find connections, the discoveries were great. As an adult she learned that she had a sister who had chosen the same profession and was married to a husband who served in law enforcement just as my instructors husband had. And I enjoyed hearing her stories.
I enjoy hearing stories of my own youth. Or those of my ancestors. But after a while they are just names. I don’t know if I am seriously related to these people or not. I don’t like family research. In fact, I loathe it. It’s just not important to me to know where I came from or how my ancestors were treated or how they treated others.
Even when names and stories are given to me and they become more than names or stories but actual people I have read about in books – I still don’t know the accuracy of our relationship. So what if we’re related? So what if we’re not? I just don’t care.
That’s not to say I don’t credit other people with finding their ancestors. Spending countless hours searching for some sort of a clue. All the more power to them. If that it truly what they love and want to do, let them do it. Kudos to their desire and passion. Bravo. It’s just really NOT my thing.
For years and years our family could be traced to William Button’s mother, Eliza Tate – a very unattractive woman. Legend was that she sang opera with her three sisters who were in favor of aborting her baby. Upon hearing their plans, Eliza had run away.
Eliza had William out of wedlock. Now that had bothered me. Wouldn’t a child out of wedlock have the same name as its mother if dad was not even in the picture? I don’t know. As a twelve year old I accepted all information as being accurate and complete.
Recently I was told by a cousin that the information that we have had for all these years is inaccurate. There are no records of any Eliza Tates being born in that particular town (or village or city or whatever) or approximate year. The woman supposedly never existed. So who is it really that appears in the photograph? And where did the photograph even come from.
My cousin got in touch with another cousin – a very distant cousin to the both of us. Her records indicate that Williams mother (who had him out of wedlock) was Jane Button. Okay. She had him out of wedlock and had given him her name. I accept that. But does my approval really make it fact or fiction? How do I know?
I do enjoy the stories I’ve read about my great-great (how many generations?) grandfather. He sounds like quite a personable man who loved his family – and though he had his feelings hurt for whatever reason – seemed to resolve them. But they’re all second hand stories. I still don’t know what is true and what is not. And it really doesn’t matter.
All of my ancestors were part of the human race. None was perfect – though each of them may have strived to live up to the good family name, parents’ expectations, the community’s belief, or whatever. All have had struggles – whether with an occupation or family member, day to day routines, diseases. And then there have been black sheep and orphans – raised as orphans and yet they were produced biologically. And I’m sure they can be found by one who has the passion to find them. I don’t have the passion.
My ancestors most likely experienced pain and sorrow, laughter and joy. There was wealth and poverty. They endured their fair share of trials. They were part of the human race.
I do keep histories and scrapbook for my own generation. Does that count? My passion lies with the future – though I do enjoy stories from the past and can learn from them. The past is not where my passion lies.
I am grateful to all of those who have the passion and for the enthusiasm one experiences with discovery and sharing. I am grateful to those who are willing to accept my choices for not pressing forward with my own family research. And for understanding that the passion is just not there.