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

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Why do I care?

For years, I have been asked the same question over and over again; Why do I care? This question is usually asked about the time I have gotten into a tirade about some or another inaccuracy in my pedigree or on a family group record. It is also asked when I spend a great deal of time correcting entries online on Family Tree or other databases.

The question can be re-phrased as: Why do you think accuracy is important in genealogy? Does it really matter which county an ancestor was born in? Why do you care if the date was October 15 or 16? And so forth. Do you really need 20 sources for the same person, won't one or two work just as well? All of these and similar questions are variations on a theme that all you need to do is identify the ancestor and come up with a little bit of information and you are on your way to the next generation and the next and back into the dim past.

I care because it hurts my soul to see inaccurate information. I have an internal nature that rebels against incompleteness in genealogy and wrong information. So, you can probably guess that online family trees, in general, can cause a major anxiety attack. The famous mountain climber, George Mallory, was asked why he was going to climb Mount Everest and he answered, "Because it's there." That was enough and it is a good reason for why I do genealogy, because it is an unfinished challenge. Mallory had more to say about mountain climbing. Here is a quote that applies to my thoughts on genealogy:
So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for.
All you have to do is substitute the word "genealogy" in the previous quote and you will see why I care. Which is more difficult to understand? Climbing mountains or doing genealogy? I have done both and prefer genealogy, especially now that my mountain climbing is somewhat limited by my previous accumulated injuries from climbing and skiing.

But I need to take on genealogy on my own terms. Genealogy is not a game or a race to win, it is an adsorbing pursuit that taxes the abilities of the most talented. I have said before, if genealogy really was fun, easy or simple, I would have lost interest in it along with many of the other fun and simple things I have abandoned. Genealogy has to require a more substantial effort to be worth that effort. Genealogy has a connection to the spiritual side of human beings that becomes obvious to those who immerse themselves in the experience.

If I have a choice, I will choose to do genealogy and if I have a further choice, I will keep obsessively correcting and adding sources until I pass on to the next world.

1 comment:

  1. I understand where you are coming from. When I started it was a take someone's word for it. Now, at the top of my notebook is "He died unmarried in Foxcroft" Seemed a bit odd...the man I was looking at had a wife and 9 children...from the bottom up as I'm sure you know. But the book said he died unmarried! Same name. An unusual one I might add. So I kept digging. In a town meeting was where his marriage was recorded. The author's didn't see it in the usual place, so....unmarried. And apparently didn't bother to check the cemetery either...his wife and a couple of his children listed on his tombstone. If you don't get out and look you can miss all sorts of things. He and his wife were one of the "brick wall"'s......because I kept at it I have added two Rev War veteran's (DAR) and a couple Gov. of MA Bay colony (Colonial Dame XVII Century) as well as a Royal ancestry..."He died unmarried in Foxcroft"...A reminder.