It's late at night. The G&FH Community has already had a successful Friday Open Thread. So why am I writing a diary? I guess because I started to ponder how learning more about my ancestors has shaped to a large degree whom I've become, and how I view myself today. In one sense, I feel as though I've been in an extended conversation with several of my ancestors. And I wonder if others feel they've had a similar experience. More below the fold....
This isn't meant to be a long history of my genealogical "career." It is meant to spur you, dear reader, to consider your own experience and to add your own thoughts on this general theme.
I come from a Midwestern, middle-class, suburban Republican Protestant upbringing. And -- Do I repeat myself? -- I led a pretty sheltered existence. At the same time, I wasn't really raised to feel, well, "grounded" in any real sense. My family spent weekends at a place out in the country. My mother took me to another state each summer to spend time with grandparents -- weeks at a time.... So my suburban existence was pretty much limited to Monday-through-Friday during the school year. I often think that I grew up in three places simultaneously.
Part and parcel of that was that the weekend outings kept me away from a church community, away from Scouting past Cubs, and away from school friends on Saturdays. In addition to which there were few relatives, so that I didn't get to experience cousins in the way my wife did. And, while my mother and father both had interests relating to history, I never got to visit a key family business before it closed, and never knew where relatives and ancestors were buried. It was the Fifties, and I guess being in touch with one's "roots" wasn't the thing.
Fast forward now to genealogy. Although briefly exposed to the concept as a preteen, I didn't develop an interest until after marriage. Part of it was wanting to learn about my wife's many distant kin living in her home county. Part of it was wanting to understand a great-grandfather; when my last grandparent died I was given a box of newspaper editorials condemning my great-grandpa, and who wouldn't have to find out more?? Lastly, a part of it was wanting to know what-to-name-the-baby (whom we were expecting).
Once I really got into it, learning about ancestors told me things about my family I never would have suspected. One of these things was that my politically conservative mother's grandfathers had both been very liberal in certain respects. Of course, I was never told about any of this, you see.
And so, without going into detail, my discoveries have led my ancestors to reinforce, if you will, thinking and action that I developed on my own despite my one-dimensional upbringing. I guess what I'm saying is that some germ of independent thinking burst forth within me even after all that exposure to a vastly different way of seeing the world. And, once out in the open, the genealogy that I pursued further informed me of where and how I should now see myself.
We shall not cease from exploration;And now let the comments begin....
And the end of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started,
And know the place for the first time.