August 30, 2010

It Boggles My Mind

It boggles my mind how some people are not the least bit interested in their family tree. They don't care who their ancestors were. They are not even sure what the word "Genealogy" means.

And worst of all, many of these people are family members! How can they not care that their great grandmother struggled against poverty and hardship after arriving in N. America in the mid 1800s? That their McGinnis ancestors were in Ireland during the potato famine, and fled to Canada on a coffin ship at the famine's peak?

How can they not be interested in the stories of ancestors who fought in wars, fled from religious persecution, sailed across oceans to unknown lands, struggled in times of famine, or faced other difficulties trying to survive and provide for a family.

Our ancestors' blood runs in our veins. Their DNA is within us. I don't understand not wanting to know about them, and by so doing to discover more about ourselves.

In my own family are those who don't care at all. These family members won't even look at a photo of their 4th great grandmother in 1867. Wow! That is astounding to me! They don't want to know any names or facts before their grandparents. Their eyes glaze if you bring the subject of genealogy up in front of them.

There are also family members who care a little bit. If you tell them some fascinating tale of an ancestor, they listen. But it has to be fascinating! They don't want to hear about ordinary people - farmers, businessmen, housewifes and others who didn't do anything spectacular.

But all of our ancestors, the good, the bad, the exciting, the ordinary, are all part of what made us. That's okay too, at least I can drum up interest by only telling those exciting stories and who knows maybe one of those listening will catch a bit of a spark and start researching in the future.

Then there are family members who care but not enough to do any research themselves. I understand that. Research can be drudgery. It can be boring. It isn't easy. I'm happy doing the research as long as they care enough to hear about my results!

It can be frustrating to be passionate about our hobby of genealogy only to find we have no one with whom we can share our exciting finds. And that's where I'm lucky. My husband is almost as passionate about genealogy as I am. So he is genuinely happy for me and listens attentively when I drone on about a new find or a new lead I'm pursuing. As I do for him.

My children are interested. Some of my grandchildren are interested. I really can't complain. But it still boggles my mind to meet people (family members or otherwise) who turn up their noses.

A few years ago, a woman said to me "Well, but c'mon they aren't your relatives anymore if they're dead" Hmm.....really? I didn't know family relationships had an expiration date. Does that mean my father and mother are not my parents since both are deceased? When I posed that question to her she had no response.

And so my mind continues to be boggled. And probably always will be.


  1. I have some family members like that too. I think part of the problem is when they don't want/can't deal with the recent past they decide to give up on all the past. Which is too bad because when you go back a few generations it is less "personal" and more interesting.

  2. I recently contacted my husband's 90-year-old great uncle and asked if we could visit about his life and his family. He handed me over to his wife who said he didn't know anything, didn't have any photos. I tried to entice them with a short synopsis of what I had learned and the reply was, "well, you know more than we do." End of conversation.

  3. Great post and one I could have written myself if I were better with words. For me it's worse than a boggled mind. It actually pains me. What's to become of all my years of 10 to 16 hours a day research? If it weren't for the excited e-mails I get from distant cousins who found my blog or something I posted long ago on the Internet, I sometimes think I'd be tempted to sell all my rare and out of print genealogy books and ship my research findings off to the Mormons and be done with it. Quit boring everyone! Aaarrghh! But, thank God, there ARE those distant cousins and they keep me going for now. I disagree on one thing you said though, this is NOT a hobby. It is much more than that. I call it my life's work. We are writing and preserving history and without the genealogists of today, much will be lost tomorrow.

  4. Elyse Doerflinger11:22 AM

    Was this post inspired by my parents - because you described them just exactly.
    My dad always teases me that I am "digging up the skeletons that everyone else is trying to bury". He knows very little about his family (he didn't even know he had aunts until he was nearly 10 years old). My dad's side of the family simply didn't talk about family - ever.
    I was the one who discovered that my grandpa had a baby sister who died shortly after birth. He had no idea (or at least acted like he didn't know).

    My mom's side of the family is a little different. We have lots and lots of cousins and extended family members - but know one knows how we all fit together. When I ask who certain people are, the reply will be "Oh - she is your cousin on the Moore side" ... "What side is the Moore side?" ... "Um... not sure".

    My mom's side knows names, but mostly nicknames and they have no idea where the names fit into everything. Sometimes, I've been told that someone was a "cousin" when in reality they aren't even related to the family. I've noticed that we use the term cousin lightly - which I don't mind (it has provided me with a large, loving family), but it sure gets confusing when doing research.

  5. Not long after I starting researching, I shared with my wife that I had found links to ancestors back to 1200 (a little prematurely, as I have since discovered). Her sarcastic response? "So, when to we get to meet them?"

    Her comment has not discouraged me, but it made me realize that I'm doing it to satisfy my curiosity and that will have to suffice. If others show interest, that's a bonus.

  6. Anonymous7:18 PM

    I am lucky to have many on both sides who saved things, that I now have. TONS of pictures and letters. I have enjoyed meeting distant cousins and listening to older generations reminisce (which I have on tape). But my favorite moment so far came a few months ago when I mentioned genealogy around my niece, who's now 15, and she said, Aunt Deb, why are you studying old people? Turns out she got "genealogy" mixed up with "gerontology" but not really, if that makes sense. She loves to hear the stories and look at the pictures, and I hope to continue nurturing that interest in her and also my 4-yo nephew someday.

  7. Jo-Ann Leake12:06 AM

    You know, ths posting resonated with me. My personal experience is that researching our families offers us information and insight into why we have become the persons we are. I find it fascinating to actually confirm - or not - some of the family folk tales! And you know what? The REAL versions are just as interesting and the legends! Like others, I get "well, what does that have to do with us today?" or "who cares?". Well, finding out about members creates in me a caring of them! How cool is that??

  8. I read "Have A Little Faith" by Mitch Albom. He says people's fear of dying is partly a fear of being forgotten. Some of us just can't help filling in the blanks on pedigree charts. It's addictive. It's just something we have to do. It's a mystery or a mathematical problem to solve. Our ancestors will not be forgotten. And one day we'll meet them and it will be one grand family reunion.

  9. Two years ago, I met for the first time, two of my first cousins - they were siblings. One told me all kinds of things, the veracity of which remains to be seen, but at least he tried. He sent me to his sister, whom he said had all the family pictures, etc. She proceeded to tell me that she had started to work on the family genealogy, but that "...the Lord spoke to me and said 'let the dead be dead'..." that was the end of my pursuit of even seeing a picture of my grandmother... and her brother (my 'informant' ) died two months later. I just hope and pray she doesn't hear the Lord tell her to destroy everything and maybe I can connect with her daughter down the road. Elyse - I hear you - I'm a Moore... no wonder we can't find out anything.

  10. My family is even less interested than yours. The kids, grandkids, etc simply seem to live only in the present. But my photos and blog of a recent trip to ancestral Scotland caught a nephew's interested eye. Overwhelmed with gratitude, I dumped the whole family history in his lap. Wonder if I will hear from him again? LOL

  11. Anonymous8:29 AM

    same here, this
    blog you wrote could have been mine on that subject. I love it but a few of my family members don't even want to hear what i find.

  12. It has been my experience that relatives are afraid of the skeletons in their closets. It is puzzling to me as to how to
    handle these skeletons without hurting your loved ones.