Monday, January 16, 2012

Ordinary Ancestors

 In The Journey Takers, the author, Leslie Albrecht Huber, writes that her Swedish family was ordinary. They led unremarkable lives that left no records. But she knows how they lived because they were ordinary. She knows the history of the times, the lifestyles of the people who lived where they lived. She wonders if she is ordinary, or if she will leave a mark on the world. Don’t we all leave our mark on the world, in one way or another? Her ancestors did, even though they left no trail of documents for her to find. Because of them, she lives to author a book about their lives and thousands of us come to know her family and their ordinary lives through her.

We can’t all be the descendant of kings or presidents or “people of status” as Ms. Huber calls them. But we are descendants of remarkable people, no matter who they were. We may possess the documents proving we have a Revolutionary War ancestor, but what about those who lived in the crippling cold of an unheated cabin, or suffered diseases that ran rampant in their communities. James McGuire who died in an ambush on the Kentucky frontier; John Beaman who wrote to the Governor of North Carolina protesting the Confederate conscription act; my grandfather, Clyde Eastham, who helped unionize the coal mines in West Virginia, and was blacklisted for years because of it; they were ordinary men by many standards. If you simply looked for documents pertaining to Clyde’s life, you would find a marriage record, some census documents and a death certificate. If you dig a little deeper, look into the lives of your ancestors and the times they lived in, you will find that those ordinary people were often remarkable.
Being a genealogist is much more than listing the names of every member of every generation of a family. A genealogist breathes life into the family by learning about the life and times in which they lived. Researching your family is putting a puzzle together. You can take all the pieces you find, and force them together, but the final picture might look more like a Picasso than a Rembrandt. It takes sound genealogical practices to fit the puzzle pieces correctly, and even then you may have pieces missing. So you scour every nook and cranny to find them, you analyze every angle for a proper fit. That is genealogy.
In my years of research, I have found wonderful stories, come across many puzzles to piece together and brick walls to climb. I plan to share the stories of my remarkable ancestors here, and discuss my journey to find them.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice story, especially as most of have ordinary ancestors. Looking forward to more great articles.