Friday, April 18, 2008

Ellen Goodman's column about genealogy

Ellen Goodman has a column in the Boston Globe newspaper, dated 18 April 2008, titled "Secrets buried under a family tree" that is an excellent read. She tells about her reaction to the recent news flurries about political candidates relationships to notable people, and that she went to the NEHGS wondering about her own ancestry.

There are several excellent paragraphs:

"... I casually handed over a few names and dates from my own memory bank. I didn't find a king or horse thief or Hollywood star, but I found a family secret. A garden-variety secret, I am sure, but a secret nonetheless. My grandparents were married on Feb. 3, 1914. Five months before my mother was born on July 7, 1914."

and:

"But what we really want from the generations past are not just the facts or the DNA. We want the stories. Love, passion, success, disappointment, humanity. There may be no way to know - really know - their interior life. But how many of us would trade in the data for one good diary? Will we remember that in our own 'estate planning'?"

and finally:

"We all have tens of thousands of cousins," says Simons, whose researchers connected Clinton with Jolie, Obama with Bush. 'You can walk down the street right past a third or fourth cousin and not know it.'

"But how I wish I could stop one couple on the street for a just a question or two. The couple who were married on Feb. 3, 1914."

Read the whole thing. Ellen gets it, doesn't she? Super. A much better take on family history than some other journalists who have branded it negatively.

1 comment:

Joy said...

Ellen Goodman is the master of understatement in the sentence "It's moving to see...the naturalization papers that required them to "renounce forever all allegiance and fidelity" to Czar Nicholas II - WHICH THEY MUST HAVE DONE WITH PLEASURE."