Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I don't care at all

I was introduced to someone yesterday who had a very recognizable Arizona surname. I won't mention the name because it might cause embarrassment. I found out that he was also from the same area of northeastern Arizona that my family comes from. Always the genealogist, I inquired about his ancestors since some of my relatives have the same surname. Wow! What a reaction. He said, "I don't know where my grandfather came from and I don't care to find out." Since I have little to talk about that doesn't relate to genealogy, it was a very short conversation.

I often find people who are indifferent to their family, but not often active rejection. Even if you don't care for the present generation, it is hard to see how this antipathy could spread to former generations. How do you go about hating your ancestors? I suppose if you really, really didn't like northeastern Arizona you might be somewhat upset with your ancestors for moving there, but their origin is obviously not something that can be changed. As my Grandmother used to say, "you can choose your friends but you can't choose your family."

So what do you do when you encounter someone who is either apathetic or worse, antagonistic towards his or her family? What if the person is a relative? In one instance, one of my Great-grandmothers was an avid genealogist. However, in her later years, it appears that she also suffered from dementia. As a result, the family associated her unusual behavior with her genealogical efforts and none of her next two generation descendents were at all interested in genealogy and seemed to be opposed to any active interest in the subject. Even though by religious mandate, they felt compelled to submit Family Group Records to the Archive File, very little else was done in the way of either discovering more information or preserving what had already been done.

Maybe the man I talked to had a very disagreeable relationship with his parents or grandparents and that led him to reject the family as a whole to the point of apparent antagonism.

What do you do when you find this type of attitude among relatives, that is, people that not only refuse to cooperate and provide basic information but also go to the extent of active persecution? One way to handle this situation is treating the family member or members like they were huge rocks in the center of the genealogical universe that need to be plowed around.  This situation is the polar opposite of the family member that has genealogical information that they will not share, but the effect is sometimes the same.If you have a relative that won't help, for whatever reason, you need to realize that there are multiple sources from which the records and information can be obtained.

Personally, I face the whole spectrum of attitudes. There are plenty of relatives around who are in a state of benign neglect with respect to records. When they are ready to share, I will be there to obtain the information, meanwhile I will keep an open mind and wait them out.


  1. What do you do? around them.

  2. I, too, have encountered this in my own family. After spending countless hours almost nightly for a long period in the library scrolling through rolls of microfilm and digging through records I was excited to share my new knowledge with my family. I got lukewarm responses. Continuing my research and learning more I gladly shared what I learned until once my father cut me off with a expletive filled line told me he didn't know who I was even talking about. Of course I didn't know them either as they had been dead for many, many years, but I was learning our family history. My siblings responses were along the lines of "cool" and after a while I was discouraged and have for the most part dropped it all together. I no longer share anything I discover now, it's just for my knowledge. I would like to be able to share with my family but their lack of interest frustrated me too much. I know not everyone cares but it would seem they could at least act interested.