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

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Happy Day! My Family History is Done.

Sometimes I just say stuff like the title of this blog post to get attention, but this title has to do with those who may be so deluded to believe that anything having to do with genealogy can be considered "done." Maybe the researcher is done, but the research is not. I say this with the firm conviction that no human being could have possibly looked at all the sources available for every single possible person in his or her family lines. That impossibility also makes the claim that any genealogy file is done an equal impossibility. Wait a minute, can there be different degrees of impossibility, just as there are different types of infinity? If so, I may have to revise the statement to read: "The impossibility of finding and recording every possible record source is actually greater than the impossibility of having all the work done in any individual's pedigree.

There is likely an exception to this rule for orphans and foundlings where the parents are unknown. If you are such a person, then you are your own genealogy and therefore it is possible, although it is unlikely that you could gather every single record of your life having the least tiny bit of genealogical relevance.

What is the point of having all the records? You may well ask this question and expect an answer. But if you have to ask the question, you are probably willing to consider your genealogy as "done" when you have sourced every fact and event. Now we get into a discussion of what is meant by the term "done." I suppose done could mean you are tired of looking for more cumulative sources about the same person and are ready to pass you work on to the next generation of eager genealogists. But in my experience, "done" usually refers to filling in all the blank spaces on a pedigree chart often without regard for completing research on the makeup of the families.

I have mentioned previously that I was the victim of a family tradition that all the genealogy had been done by two Great-grandmothers. I have no way of knowing if this impression came from statements made by the Great-grandmothers to their relative or not, but I really doubt this is the case. More likely the impression came from the family members observing (and from the relative's perspective, suffering) the overwhelming interest these two women had in their ancestry. In at least one case, the extraordinary involvement of one of the Great-grandmothers resulted in an antipathy for genealogy that lasted more than two generations among her descendants. In both cases, the cumulative work of a lifetime for the two genealogists was neglected and nearly lost. In one case, the notes and records were preserved almost by accident. In the other case, the photos were miraculously preserved but the rest of the genealogical research notes, letters and other documents apparently lost.

The important point here is that the lines worked on by these two dedicated genealogists only constitute four of my eight Great-grandparents' lines. Those who pass these traditions down to subsequent generations seem to ignore the fact that the Great-whatever who worked on the family genealogy had no idea who her children or grandchildren would marry. So my ancestral lines are a combination of both my mother's lines and my father's lines, complicated by the fact that my parents were second cousins. The results are simple. There are some of my lines where no substantial genealogical research has been done. I believe this impression of completeness is usually the result of having an extensive list of direct line ancestors along the surname line.

Of course we could all make our lives easier if we simply defined our genealogy as "done" when we have identified our parents. Then I could retire from retirement. But fortunately, that is not the case.

I will probably have more thoughts on this issue. But that is enough for right now.


  1. Do you do any Genealogy research in Kentucky?

  2. I'm glad my genealogy isn't "done." What would I do for fun if it were?