Friday, November 14, 2008

Why do I do genealogy?

Brenda Joyce Jerome asked this question of herself today on her Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog. Her post is here.

I answered her with (edited a bit after review):

1) To honor my ancestors - the effort they put in to live lives that helped build this country, our family, and produced me and my descendants.

2) To instill a sense of history and tradition in my descendants and family members by bringing the stories of our ancestors to light.

3) It is a really challenging and fun vocation that I can pursue in leisure - it's a treasure hunt, detective puzzle and intellectual challenge to find elusive ancestors.

I wondered how others have answered the question, and found these:

* I do genealogy for the love of history, and for the love of my ancestors, some of whom I knew, but most of whom I did not. Not every ancestor or relative was a wonderful person, but I love them all, warts or whatever. I am a little piece of they who came before, and if they are now in a position to look down and smile, I hope that the fact that I remember them, and honor them, warms their hearts wherever they may be. I also hope someone will remember me after I inevitably pass on, and certainly it is human nature to want to be remembered... (David L. Casey)

* By doing genealogy, we continue to remember our beloved family members who have preceded us in death and teach future generations to honor those who continue to live in our hearts and memories. (Lynna Kay Shuffield)

* To me, genealogy is the study of particular individuals or particular family groups with a view toward discovering how their life choices were affected by the historical times and places in which they lived. Knowing that your ancestors lived through a particular era or historical event makes history relevant in a way that no classroom lecture or textbook can. You'll probably come to the conclusion that your ancestors were braver, stronger and more resourceful than you ever imagined...and maybe--just maybe--they're out there somewhere, cheering you on to greater accomplishments, too! (Donna Hansen Carr)

* Because I have to. At the risk of sounding'wooey-wooey', I know that I'm acting as an emissary for the deceased - my own, and sometimes other people's. I feel privileged to walk with one foot in our realm and the other in theirs. (Judy Herbert)

* For me, since my lines go back to the early 1600s in North America, genealogy personalizes history for me; I feel a closer connection to the events I read about in school. It also gives my wife and I a sense of perspective. When we read about the hardships, tragedies, and triumphs of our ancestors, it makes us realize how relatively easy we have it, and how fortunate we are. And it gives us a real sense of debt and gratitude. (Bill Merklee)

* At first, I did genealogy because my parents dragged me into it, with me kicking and screaming and hollering, "No! No! No! No! No!" But, after a little while, I discovered that our genealogy project was actually a WEAPON! Yes indeed. (Lester Powers) [read it all - a different take!]

* I do genealogy to leave a mark. I would hate to think we pass through this lifetime without leaving some sort of a mark so that other people know we passed. I continue to work on the genealogy, send it to Salt Lake as a means of leaving that mark. To top it all off, it's fun and educational. Look at how much you find out about history and geography, besides it keeps me off the streets. (Bud Miner).

* ... my great driving force was trying to understand the incomprehensible dynamics of my family--you know, the standard dysfunctions, but when you are a kid growing up in the midst of irrationality....nothing seemed so important as trying to understand the whys and wherefores. And tracing the roots of various issues has been very helpful. Finally, I just plain love a good mystery and this is my chance to play detective! (Marge Jodoin)

* 1. Curiosity and feeling connected with ones roots (finding oneself)
2. Forensics - i.e. finding living descendants or closest living relatives for legal reasons (e.g. for property disposition of those who died intestate)
3. Genetics - inherited diseases or traits for psychological research/treatment
4. Memberships in organizations such as Mayflower Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, United Empire Loyalists, etc. (sense of belonging) (Xenia)

* I know that psychologically speaking, people do genealogy to feed the soul. It is a way to look at the past that warms the heart. There are many other ways to feed the soul as well. From what I've learned, digging into the past is a way to put your life into perspective. It is also a way of coming to terms with ones own mortality. Most people don't think about it these ways, but they can be a subconscious reason for doing genealogy. (Lorna Ellis)

* Religious, because I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We believe that people who do not, or have not had the opportunity to hear the gospel in this life, will have the opportunity to hear it in the next. As we believe that people must be baptised, and baptism is an earthly ordinance, we need to identify our Ancestors. Fun, because it is a challenge to try and locate our ancestors. It is stimulating to the mind, it gives one a real buzz when you find someone you've been looking for. You don't need to take drugs or alcohol to get a high just do your Family Tree, it will give you all the "highs" you want. (Liddell)

* "I saw behind me those who had gone, and before me, those who are to come. I looked back and saw my father, and his father, and all our fathers, and in front, to see my son, and his son, and the sons upon sons beyond. And their eyes were my eyes. As I felt, so they had felt, and were to feel, as then, so now, as tomorrow and forever. Then I was not afraid, for I was in a long line that had no beginning, and no end. And the hand of his father grasped my father's hand, and his hand was in mine, and my unborn son took my right hand, and all, up and down the line that stretched from Time That Was, to Time That Is, and Is Not Yet, raised their hands to show the link, and we found that we were one, born of Woman, Son of Man, made in the Image, fashioned in the Womb by the Will of God, the Eternal Father." Extracted from the work of Richard Llewellyn "How Green Was My Valley" (Anne Adams)

* "a family is many generations closely woven; that though the generations may die, they endure as part of the fabric of the family; .... We carry the dead generations within us and pass them on to the future aboard our children. This keeps the people of the past alive long after we have carried them to the churchyard." - Russell Baker. This is why I do genealogy. We are all a product of our past and our ancestors make us our past and to know them is to know ourselves. (Lorraine R. Friberg)

The question has been asked, in many forms, on many forums and boards. The above are just some of the more eloquent and poignant statements of faith and action that I found using a simple Google search.

Why do YOU do genealogy research? Tell me. Tell Brenda. Tell the world! This worthy of a Carnival of Genealogy topic, I think!

My thanks to Brenda for providing a blog topic on a day that I've been struggling to write anything.

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