Monday, April 21, 2008

A convert!

If you are as caught up in the pleasures of genealogical research as I am, you are probably taken aback when you hear dismissive remarks about the hobby. It’s one thing to be simply uninterested, but some people still harbor the old-fashioned opinion that digging out family history is just for royal pretenders or celebrity-chasers. When one of these nay-sayers has a flash of insight that brings him or her around to our view, it is occasion for a private “I told you so.”

Ellen Goodman’s column on April 20’s Santa Rosa Press-Democrat editorial page is an example. “I always thought that genealogy was for people whose blood ran blue,” she says. “It was for folks who traced their ancestry to the Mayflower or the American Revolution, not those who came over in steerage one step ahead of the Cossacks.”

Skeptical but curious, she decided to visit Boston’s New England Historic Genealogical Society after hearing of their published list of family connections among presidential candidates and celebrities. And the rest is (family) history. She became a convert.

Goodman quickly discovered some intriguing secrets in her own family (well, they were secrets before she wrote her syndicated column). These long-hidden events, she says, helped her understand some of her parents’ attitudes, among other things.

It sounds as if she has the early stages of the genealogical itch, and has surrendered her earlier prejudices for good. At the same time, she makes an important point: “...what we really want from the generations past are not just the facts or the DNA. We want the stories.”

So true! The facts are what we can dig out of records, but when we put them together we discover the stories. And that’s what makes genealogy so fascinating. Cheers for Ellen Goodman! (And the rest of us, too.)


My own research lately has led me off the straight-and-narrow ancestral trails, as I have previously written. Am still trying to discover the connection of a female named in my Cain ancestor’s Maryland will, probated in 1795. She may be related to his second wife, but so far I have not found THE essential piece of information. However, I am having a great time looking into the second wife’s own line. (Too bad there are so many Smiths.)

In another project, I am working to disprove a Cain relationship which seems to be copied and recopied all over the Internet. Folks, hearsay just doesn’t cut it! More about this later.

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