Why do I spend so many of my waking hours doing genealogy? What captures my attention about finding and studying everyday regular people who lived over a hundred years ago? Why is 1840, 1760 or anytime before 1940 so much more interesting to me than 2019? Here’s my thoughts:
Perspective on Apocalyptic News
The news today is filled with stories of how awful things are right now. Its a 24/7 ongoing pummel of negative stories. If I were to focus on it all day long, I would be in mental distress. When I focus my attention on families who lived in the past, it brings perspective back to me. During World War 1, people experienced the horror of our first mass killing war machines. Historians say we began the war with rifles with bayonets and ended it with machine guns, tanks, and planes. An estimated 19 million died and 40 million were wounded. Additionally in the last year of WW1, a world-wide flu pandemic killed 18 million people, and sicken untold millions. If the same number of proportion of world population died today as died then, it would be 231 million people Horrific!That puts today’s constant drumming of bad news into perspective for me.
Appreciation of Daily Life
When I look at the life of my Great Grandma Curry, I become so grateful for today. Anna Mae Curry was born in 1890, she was the youngest of twelve children. Her mother Rebecca died when Anna Mae was 5 years old, and father died eleven years later when she was 16. Soon after her father’s death, she married John Curry and had a son in 1909. By 1920 they moved half was across Pennsylvania and had four more children, one of whom was born prematurely and died two weeks later. While Anna Mae was pregnant with her sixth child, her husband John died from tuberculosis. He worked in a factory that made asbestos bricks, and now we know what the doctor noted as tuberculosis on his death certificate was likely lung disease caused by the asbestos fibers. My great grandmother raised five children alone starting in 1923 and through the Great Depression of the 1930’s. I can’t imagine how tough my great grandmother had to be and how much my grandmother and her siblings had to do without. I’ve got nothing to complain about.
Antidote to Disconnection
In doing genealogy professionally I’ve met person-after-person interested in going back to where their families immigrated from and standing where their ancestors once stood. It occurs like a universal need and has me pondering why we feel this pull. It’s not because our ancestors were royalty, most of us descended from everyday farmers and laborers. It feels like we want to be connected to something more than our everyday life of pursuing our individual interests. Our ancestors lived a much harsher life where it was possible to die from an infected wound, starve, or not even make it past childhood. So why go somewhere and ponder that? I think its our way of being grateful for what we have and thankful our ancestors did what they did to raise their children so we could be here today. For me, the gratitude connects me to something bigger than myself and my daily desires.
So what makes you want to pursue genealogy? I’d love to hear!
Image source: The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. “A view of Reading taken from the west side of Schuylkill….” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 7, 2019. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-7c4d-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99