Friday, January 13, 2012

Digging for the rich and famous? Seriously?

Dear Uncle,

I've returned from the south and my all too short visit with the descendants (my daughter and grandson).  I had missed my computer time and was eager to catch up.  I stopped over at Greta's Blog and read with great sadness and then anger the discussion that was going on regarding whether Genealogy was a "Trivial Pursuit".

A Mr. Ball, author of a book which I will not mention here as I will not add to his income, made the statement that " Most people who do family research are white, and most of them look for ancestors with the goal to unearth the whitest, most moneyed forebears they can."

Here's what I can tell you about what that statement did to me.  It lit me up like a firecracker.  I'm talking Roman Candle, Blockbuster, the big boomers that we hear on the 4th of July and I don't mean in a good way.

Uncle, if we were sitting on a front porch in a couple of rocking chairs, I can tell you that we'd both be about ready for take off. We'd be rocking so fast in agitation and our voices would be getting pretty loud, thinking about the audacity of that man.  I'm sure we'd have a couple of descriptions about  him and his character and a few other things that "het up" folks have a say about.

Here's what I have to say.  He doesn't get it.  It's not in his blood or his soul.  And I guess I should read his book before I condemn him for his statement but it's pretty obvious.  He doesn't get it.  If he did he'd never have made a statement like that.

Yes, there are all kinds of Genealogists.  Professional, semi-professional, certified, not certified, taking classes to be certified and then there's the family genealogist. The person who gathers the names and dates and puts them in a chart.  And then there is the family historian.  The one who saves everything, looks for everyone, wants the story behind the story, who looks at the maps because they really care to know the area, to learn about the ancestors, reads up on history to know what affected the ancestors, who can't remember what they had for breakfast yesterday but can tell you the circumstances surrounding the crop failure of 1698, the Flu pandemic of 1918 and what happened at Thanksgiving dinner 20 years ago when Aunt Mabel told the story about the traveling salesman and great Aunt Gert and Uncle Fred.

So maybe he has a point.  But Uncle I think you and I both know that we are the HIstorians.  And because of folks like us, our ancestors never really die, they are just the next story to be discovered and told and remembered.

Until the next,
 Your Devoted Niece


  1. Most people I know grew up poor in the 50's and 60's, but we did not know we were poor.

    I would like to read Mr. Balls book, but I would borrow it from the library, not buy it.

    Welcome aboard !!!!

    1. Thank you for the Welcome Claudia. I appreciate it!

  2. A totally absurd notion! Not one person I've met in the genealogy world looks for rich, white ancestors. If anything, I think we're proudest (I am) of our humble roots and what amazing courage and fortitude our ancestors had to make it with little education or money: just a risk-taking nature, can-do attitude, perseverance, gumption, and innate intelligence! What a goofy comment to make! (and thanks for your comment on my blog!)

  3. You're welcome :-) And I am right there with you in so far as what makes us proud. Don't know who that man was talking to but I'm reasonably sure that at this point in time he was not speaking to "regular" folks just searching for their kin.

  4. "Lit me up like a firecracker" - that is a good description of my reaction when I first read this passage on the Minnesota Family Historian's blog. Ball is a classic example of willful ignorance. People love to cling to their illusions when it gives them a sense of superiority. Now I need to get back to researching my poor dirt farmer families....