Thursday, April 4, 2013

Do your ancestors have equal rights?

As an issue, civil rights' disputes don't usually intrude themselves into genealogical discussions and to be quite frank, dead people don't have many rights, civil or otherwise, But since our society is so pervaded with the idea that people have a variety of "RIGHTS," I decided that we should examine our attitude towards our departed ancestors.

I think the most basic right of our ancestors is the right to individual careful consideration. So many of our ancestors get short shrift. They end up as Mrs. Robert Jones, or simply Mary, with no other information. As a genealogical community, we love to focus on our famous or infamous ancestors, especially royalty, but ignore their children and spouses. My famous ancestor is celebrated in at least a dozen books, but there is not one book or article about his long suffering wives. What gives here? Are women simply second class ancestors? Can we continue to deny each ancestor the right to careful consideration with impunity.

Hmm. It seems like my organizational efforts, trying to get my ancestors riled about the injustice of the denial of their rights, is somewhat stymied. They don't answer any of my calls or emails. So, I guess I will have to rely on the living, half-dead and mostly dead genealogical community for support in my equal rights campaign.

Another important ancestral right is the right to proper documentation. I am sure many of my departed relatives have worn themselves out rolling in their graves over some of the entries about their lives in various family group records, pedigrees and online databases. Do you think this severe injustice can continue without retribution? Can we continue to deny our ancestors their unalienable rights?

Do you really think that someone, such as my ancestor John Tanner, who was listed as being born in Cottonwood, Utah in 1778 can sit idly by and suffer the outrageous slings and arrows of improper research for ever? This brings up the next important right, the right to accuracy and competency. It is time to think about what you put down about your ancestors. If you really think, deeply and for a long time, you will realize that few women at the age of three years are having children and that although my ancestors probably would like it otherwise, they are not able to have children after their death (at least none that I personally know).

As a society we are overly exercised about the rights of oppressed minorities. What about the vast majority? Let's think about the rights of our dead ancestors for a change. Seeing all those TV shows listed about Ghost Whisperers, I suggest we can put those people out of business if we just do our jobs properly as genealogists. This should be especially true now that we are officially relegated to a minor function of the overall area of "family history." If we call it "family history" does that excuse the blatant denial of our ancestors' rights? Can we avoid accuracy by simply getting all fuzzy and warm about the stories of out ancestors? Why not just make the stuff up and not waste time doing research? Are we so intent at preserving our past that we want to abandon the non-fiction section of our libraries for novels and fiction?

Come to think of it. I would be a lot easier to make it all up. Let's see. If I go onto Ancestry.com and find a pedigree I like, I can simply adopt all the famous ancestors I want and still feel good about myself. Think of the increased self esteem I will get and how wonderful my children will feel because they had such industrious ancestors. But wait, that would deny an even more fundamental right of my ancestors, the right to be remembered as they were; real people with real lives and real challenges. Oh well, I guess it is time to get back to researching records. I'll see if I can work some more advocacy on the part of the deceased into my schedule some time in the future.

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