Itch....

..... for a while I was an avid genealogist..... I was dogged and voracious and searched incessantly....... I spent hours cataloging my ancestors...... I read hundreds of books, scoured countless census records, and eagerly jotted each name, date, and location onto ream upon ream of paper.... and then after a while, I slotted each disembodied name into a 'family tree' database.....

... I suppose that it all began innocently enough..... you wake up one morning, take a sip of coffee and look at your surname and think, "gee, I wonder where I came from."..... and from that moment forward, your search begins...... you find yourself on the phone long-distance with elderly Great Uncles & Aunts.... prying birthdates, marriages, and maiden names from them as they strain to hear your voice over the wires..... over the miles, over the ocean, over the years and years of Time....

... God knows that I irritated most of my living relatives half to death with my persistent questioning.... but at the time, I was completely consumed with putting all of the pieces together..... but now, the bug is gone.... I reached a point - and I am not sure exactly where or when it was - that I stopped.... a point where whatever itch I had was finally scratched..... four years and 10,000 names, and I was done.....

.... 10,000 names, my goodness..... it seems so odd to type that number and actually see it sitting there..... but there it is.....

.... the result of all of this, of course, is that I now find myself in the odd position of being the 'family historian'.... as more and more of the older generation slide off to the hereafter, I seem to be fielding more and more questions from the younger cousins about "where we came from"....

... it's a strange juxtaposition....... one the one hand, I gladly give them whatever information they ask for..... but on the other hand there is a part of me that is greedy with 'what I know'.... stingy with the products of MY searching.... how I found out that 'Hull' was actually "Hohl" two hundred years ago... and how the family fled Germany in 1735.... I somehow feel a strange sense of protection over the history that I have learned...... a weird sense of pride in having pieced together so much on my own through research & toil....

.... but I know that isn't the right way to feel..... I should give - and I do..... after all, their itches are just as itchy as mine was when I was their age..... and now I am The One With The Answers.... I just have a lot more answers now than those old Great Aunts and Uncles had when I asked them 15 years ago.....

... my Mother brought an old photo circa 1910 by the house a few days ago.... it was of my paternal Great Grandfather & Great Grandmother.... she was excited to show it to me as she hadn't seen it before.... I laughed and thanked her....and then proceeded to show her the same photograph neatly tucked away in a bulging binder on the bookshelf.... she was both shocked AND pleased that my old genealogy addiction had been so thorough years ago.....

.... she sat on the couch and I told her my Great Grandmother's maiden name, who her first husband was, that her father was a noted physician, that when she died her hair was long enough to brush the ground as she walked, that she was widowed a second time when her husband in the photo died, and how her youngest son took her in with his family to care for her in her old age, I told her of how her Great Great Grandfather had been killed by the Cherokee, and how his father had landed penniless in Philadelphia.......

.... why do I know all of this? .... other than being an interesting story to tell, what other purpose does it hold?......

.... what was that itch that sprang upon me and drove me to search out name after name, detail after detail all those years ago? .... what was I looking for?..... what did I hope to find?.....

.... I've long since been cured from whatever forced me search out my ancestors.... but for the life of me, I still don't understand it..... we all have ancestors..... and in the end, they were people just like us... just people.... working, living, loving, fighting, failing, yearning, hating, trying, creating, destroying......

.... I wish that I knew what kicked-off that itch...... but even more, I wish that I knew what cured it....

by Eric on April 30, 2008 | Bullshit (14) | TrackBack (0) | Thinking
Bullshit So Far

Reminds me of the joke about the little boy who comes home and asks his mother, "Where did I come from?" Although she has dreaded the question, she launches into a full telling of the Birds and the Bees, facts of life. When she is all finished, the boy looks puzzled and says, "That is funny, 'cause my friend Billy comes from California."

There are some things I want to know about my family like why did my paternal grandfather change his name from Bernecker in WWI to Barker soon after and not bother telling anyone including his wife, my grandmother who found out after he died. For me, it is the "whys" not the "whos."

Bullshitted by Lou on April 30, 2008 09:19 AM

For me it was the unanswered questions....I am STILL searching for answers and it has been over five years since I started genealogy.
Just last week I found out about my father's side of the family, back to my great grandfather....and when I sent it to my father, he was impressed- not remembering half of what I had found. He sent it on to some family members who replied to me, thanking me for the work i've done.

Dad just handed out my research...just like that....harumph. But in the end it's okay. If I could have read a book that told of my ancestry and been done with it, I would have.

But it is the nature of the beast. It is the mystery, the unanswered questions, the why? the how come? and many more little things all rolled up into one big necessity- because after all, if we cannot know the meaning of life, we can- at least- find meaning in our life from whence we came.

Your thirst has been sated. Mine, alas, has not. I am still searching and probably will continue until I get to the end of the rainbow.

Bullshitted by Rave on April 30, 2008 09:26 AM

Mormon relatives and ancestors, not to mention the LDS church have done the footwork on my mother's side.

Hitler did the work of putting up too many roadblocks in the form of plowing whole villages under for us to pursue that side of the family's genealogy very far back.

I do wonder, however, what became of all the information in the form of IBM punchcards that the Nazis so carefully catalogued that is chronicled in IBM and the Holocaust?

It seems to me that's an incredible resource for Jews everywhere...

Bullshitted by Abbadon on April 30, 2008 09:31 AM

Yeah but there are some interesting things that might come up..like, you know that great great great uncle that we were told was killed over an argument about over a horse? Could it be that the horse was not his and he was killed by a long drop from a short rope? Things like that happened in Texas...

Bullshitted by GUYK on April 30, 2008 05:12 PM

Very cool of you to research your family so thoroughly. I know very little of my family. We weren't very close, and there were a number of divorces/remarriages way back in the way back. But still, I treasure the little gleanings of information I got from my Grandmother before she passed. I have one small box of photos of relatives I've never met, yet that box is invaluable to me.

So even though I don't know the reason why we do these searches, I do know the feeling why we do.

Bullshitted by DogsDontPurr on April 30, 2008 05:56 PM

Never thought much about my genealogy but a cousin felt the need to explore the past and discovered that we were decendents of French Huguenots. They fled to the low countries to keep from getting hacked to pieces by French Catholics, immigrating to America at the end of the 17th century, and accomplishing little since. Then things get confused. Going back to my grandparents families there's one French, one German, one Scottish, and one Irish.
Okay..so here I am. Half of me wants to drink good whiskey and hate the British. One fourth wants to drink beer and invade Poland, and the last 1/4 wants to munch brie and surrendered to the part that wants to invade Poland. It's a wonder I have lasted so long being pulled in so many different directions but maybe that's what it means to be an AMERICAN..

Bullshitted by Tbird on April 30, 2008 06:03 PM

Ah,the start it the hunt for who you are, it end s when you realize it doesn't matter who your ancestor's were this is America and you are who you are.

Bullshitted by james old guy on April 30, 2008 08:12 PM

Have you posted your genealogy on Ancestry.com? That way other folks can tap into it on their research.

Dad has me working on his side of the family. Trying to track down the current members. It's like the Jerry Springer Show. Lots of hook-ups and baby-daddys on that side. Sigh.

Bullshitted by Jerry on April 30, 2008 08:25 PM

My grandfather left/ran away from home at 14 to work in the coal mines in Kentucky. Near the bottom of the heap of 15 kids, he knew his father's name, and that was much the extent of his family knowledge. He'd been told his grandfather was German, but had never met him. Through our own research, we figured our family wandered this way from Eastern Europe, and changed their name from "Eckhoff..."

That all changed a couple years ago. A fellow found my blog, and runs a site dedicated to tracing the name "Acuff" through this country. He asked my Dad's name, and my grandfather's name...and soon, he'd placed us.

Turns out my great, great grandfather wasn't German....he was from Grainger County, TN.

Also turns out that you can trace my particular family line to England in the 1580's...and the first Acuff came to this continent, to Martin's Hundred, a feeder plantation for Jamestown, in the early 1600's...

And, if memory serves, I'm the 16th generation of Acuff born on this continent down my particular line....

This long comment's not intended to gloat. Merely to say that we're a pretty deeply rooted infestation....

Bullshitted by Tommy on April 30, 2008 08:46 PM

I've heard that everybody gets that itch once in their lives. I'm still waiting... Got cousins and uncles on both sides that have done it all and I have copies of their work. Even though I've read it and learned some about where both sides of the family came from, it has yet to tell me anything about where I am or where the hell I'm going...

Most days it's good enough just to know that my blood is Scot, Irish, Dutch, English, and a little bit of Chickasaw.

Bullshitted by Winston on May 1, 2008 05:24 AM

My great uncle, who passed just over a year ago, has EXTENSIVELY researched our lineage. All the way back to Scotland and Ireland and into the reign of Charlemagne compiling it all into a highly valued book. Of course, there are the Great Ones linked with the cattle theives, but like the sayin' goes...you can pick yer nose, you can pick yer friends, butcha cain't pick yer family"...good or bad. Loved BST's comment "not intended to gloat. Merely to say that we're a pretty deeply rooted infestation".... heh, yeah bro, same here.

Ne Oublie! (Graham clan)

Bullshitted by Jay- the friendly neighborhood piper on May 1, 2008 09:07 AM

After my mother passed away three years ago I became the custodian of all the evidence, er, stuff about genealogy. All of this will be released about 3:00 AM, August 3, 2195.

Bullshitted by Cappy on May 1, 2008 07:42 PM

Jerry Wiley has my vote for most hysterical loose boogers flying onto the monitor comment of all time.

Bullshitted by Erica on May 1, 2008 09:37 PM

I've thought about tracing my roots on my Dad's side but I honestly don't know where to start. My bub and I are the only two of my kind in the states-a made up name from the orphanage my Dad was in, yadda, yadda, yadda. My Grandpa came over from Poland and I have his records from Ellis Island, but that is as far as I've gotton. I think maybe I'm too lazy.

Bullshitted by Sugar Britches on May 2, 2008 04:46 PM