Monday, February 23, 2015

Objectivity: Why Am I Doing This?

Confession time: When I picked this up, I thought it would be cool to trace back to where my family lived before coming to America. And I thought it would be neat to see how far back I could go. Isn't this what most new genealogists think?

Then I started reading all these blogs and articles about how you should try to find all the possible sources related to a person before moving on to the next person, and how you should research all the siblings, too, because it might help you fill in some of the gaps. I was daunted, but quickly realized the benefit of doing this. People stopped being just names and dates on a page and I started seeing them as real people, getting a picture of their lives. Much more meaningful then the "fact" that I can supposedly trace my family back to 1100. But I was kind of jumping around, based on "hints" I was getting from various sites. I needed a more organized approach to prevent myself from researching someone that might not actually be an ancestor.

So, I decided to take the tree that Dad had created and start near the bottom, verifying and filling in until I had a nice full picture of a person before moving on. I decided to start with my grandparents, since I was pretty sure I could believe that they are, in fact, my parents' parents and that my parents are indeed mine. And records related to my parents might be hard to find if Mom doesn't have a copy, since they are so recent. So, grandparents it is.

The problem is, I have many memories of my grandparents, some good, some not-so-much. Add to that the fact that the 1st anniversary of my dad's death is quickly approaching and I'm finding myself in tears more often than not as I read about the events in my grandparents' lives. I'm either missing them horribly or renewed anger and hurt is rising to the surface. I can't be objective.

Which makes me think about objectivity in genealogy. I think a lot of people do this so they can feel connected to their ancestors. But not everything you find may be pretty. Do you have the objectivity to accept that they were who they were, and they did what they did, even if it's not nice?

I'm reminded of Johnathon "Black Jack" Randall in one of my favorite books, Outlander by Diana Galbaldon. (It's just a link, I don't get any kickback for sending you there!) The main character, Claire Randall, is married to a historian who is obsessed really into his genealogy. Claire gets transported back in time where she meets this highly decorated and renowned ancestor her husband was so excited to learn about. Turns out, he's a sadist and overall horrible person. Like, really, really bad. Like, you have to read the book to understand how bad. Not at all what her dear, sweet, gentle husband imagined!

But I digress. The thing is, I think I could accept almost anything about an ancestor I didn't know personally. Heck, I already know I've got some damn yankees in my past (but I'm coming to terms with it...)! But reading about the lives of people I remember seems invasive. Like reading their diary, even if they are public records. And it just stirs up so many emotions.

So, I think I'm going to up a level. Tackle one of my great-grandparents. Still close enough to me to feel pretty confident of the relationship, but with fewer personal memories, maybe I can find the objectivity I think is needed.

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