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

Thursday, January 9, 2014

What if our genealogical dreams came true?

What if you woke up this morning and everything you had ever wished for in genealogy had happened over night? When you got up, you found that all of those pesky problems concerning the connections of your ancestors had been solved and there was a pile of documents sitting on your kitchen table, documenting every last issue you had ever imagined. What is more, when you got online, the blog news said that the last scrap of paper documents in the world was finally located and digitized and that every word on every document, printed or handwritten, had been indexed and was now searchable. Even further, every country, every repository, every museum, every society, every individual, every library and so forth in the whole world had every last piece of paper they had in their possession digitized and fully searchable? Also, in flash, all of the copyright laws in every country were rescinded and you could now copy anything anywhere without worrying about the copyright police arresting you. If that wasn't enough, really intelligent bots were now feeding every ounce of information about every one of your family lines into the unlimited storage capacity of your personal computer and smart database programs were assembling all of the data into absolutely accurate and completely sourced family units. The only small cloud in all this sunny day of genealogy was that there were still a very few unsolved mysteries due to the intransigence of your ancestors in lying about their lives that no documents could solve.

As a result of this remarkable occurrence, several prominent members of heritage societies had to resign due to the fact that they really weren't related to the Mayflower Passengers or whatever. Others immediately began application, of course. Oh, I failed to mention, this happened to all of the genealogists everywhere at the same time. In thinking about this, I decided that I would really have to cultivate some other outside interests, just in case this all happened, since all us genealogists would then be out of work with no research left to do and no documents left to find. Just kidding, I already have so many other interests, I could switch over in a heartbeat, without even thinking about it.

Is this really what we want out of our research? What fun would there be in that kind of scenario? Would you really want the entire unvarnished truth about every one of your ancestors immediately revealed? What about your own unvarnished truth? Actually, I think the whole idea is pretty scary. If we think privacy is dead now, think about the ultimate when every scrap of information is readily searchable online by anyone. You might see some problems if this were the case. More problems that just with genealogy. Many of the governments and other organizations have historically maintained their power over people by controlling information with classified documents, official statements etc. What if everything were known by anyone who wanted to look it up? What changes would that make to how we live and what we do? If I knew everything, I mean everything, about everybody, how would that change the way I interacted with my neighbors and friends, not to mention relatives?

OK, enough of this idle speculation. The reality is that we live in world where finding out the truth about nearly anything is difficult. But that's what makes life interesting and genealogy worth pursuing. If genealogy were easy, as I have said many times, I would not be interested in it at all. It is only the difficulty that makes me keep going. I like questions that are really hard to answer, maybe impossible. Otherwise, I feel shortchanged.

Anyway, it is nice to speculate.


  1. Doing the research is how we get to know our ancestors. If it were easy, we would not get to know them. It would be like trying to be a friend to somebody without knowing anything about them, or knowing everything about them (like celebrities) but not really relating to them to be their friends. The research helps us to care about them and know them. Great article.

    1. I agree. I have found that if a line has "already been done" so to speak, it doesn't spark my interest as much as the ones where little can be found. It's the thrill of the chase :)

  2. I agree totally, to me its all about the hunt.

  3. Maybe if the odd record "suddenly appeared" would be nice, but all of it ... nah, that would ruin the hunt!