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Genealogy Will Melt Your Brain

October 15, 2010

You start with a simple question: Who did I come from? This seemingly simple pursuit quickly explodes into a list of grandparents and parents, aunts and uncles, your siblings, cousins, nephews and nieces, and all their spouses, children and grandchildren living and dead. Now you find that it is important to add the birth, death and marriage dates for all of these people and organize them by generations. This is the beginning of your family tree but, at this point, you still haven’t answered the original question. Now you must work up the tree.

Your parents came from two different families, so now you’re juggling two separate trees full of information. Your two sets of grandparents require four trees, and so on. Now a new question arises: How far do I go with this? If you keep going you will (theoretically) get back to Adam and Eve. That’s not feasible. You have to draw the line somewhere or you’ll go insane. Genealogy is mainly about surname and bloodline. If you keep this in mind, you won’t go too far up your mother’s branch of the family. You’ll concentrate on following your father’s surname as far back as you can. Even with this limitation, your search will become a daunting task.

The computer makes such an undertaking a lot easier than it used to be. In the old days, you depended on family Bibles, old photos and letters, trips to courthouses to dig through county records, visits to graveyards to get dates from headstones, writing letters requesting information from distant counties and relatives. There are many genealogy sites on the web, and you will find inconsistencies between different websites’ data for the same family tree. This is due to things like not being able to read the handwriting on the backs of old photos, or people making educated guesses about names and dates.

Learning about your ancestors can be fascinating and satisfying, but it quickly becomes tedious, time-consuming, addicting, and mind-numbing. It sucks you in and, before long, you have forgotten to eat, bathe, or sleep. You know you need to stop… but you can’t until you’re satisfied that you’ve sufficiently answered that original question: Who did I come from?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 16, 2010 10:19 PM

    So far I haven’t seen anything but boring lists of who owned what. mmmm let me see everyone owned a horse, a log cabin, a cow etc. boring.

  2. October 17, 2010 11:49 AM

    It’s about the people who came before you – not what they owned. Finding the data for all these people and getting it in the right order is like putting together a 5,000-piece jigsaw puzzle without having the picture on the box to show you what it should look like when you’re finished. It can be quite challenging. Once you start splashing around in your gene pool, you might get hooked and find it not so boring.

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