Friday, September 23, 2011

Why Genealogy?

I've been interested in my family history for decades but only in the past couple of years have I really started researching and digging to uncover my ancestors.  Why is this important to me?  I’m sure my answer may be different than for many others. 
My primary motivation is not to learn if my ancestors came over on the Mayflower or were among the first to settle at Jamestown.  I don’t really care if I descended from George Washington or even Abraham Lincoln.  I’m not trying to build my self esteem on the backs of the famous or the infamous.  On the contrary, I like to think that my motivation comes from a deeper, more meaningful conviction.
To some genealogists, the search is a lucrative pursuit and some make their sole living from their research and teaching and books.  Certainly, that is not my motivation.  On the contrary, I’ve found genealogy to cause an outflow of funds from my household, not an inflow.
To me, genealogy is more about values.  My core values were instilled by my parents and theirs by their parents.  So, how many generations past have influenced my values today?  Naturally, there is no way to quantify this but it nevertheless is a source of contemplation.  
I’m very interested in the daily lives of my ancestors.  What kind of hardships did they endure and how did they overcome them or succumb to them?  Many of them were farmers and how did they eek out a living from the land and support their families?  For example, my great grandfather lived in an area that was heavily wooded with only small patches of cleared land suitable to grow anything. I wonder if they had chickens and what kind of crops they grew.  Did they have a cow for milk?  What did they do during years of bad weather when the crops died?  What kind of tools did they use and did they make them or trade for them?  
What did they do for entertainment, if anything?  One of my great grandfathers was disabled from the Civil War and was unable to work, yet he fathered ten children!  What was he thinking?  I suppose it answers the question of what that family did for entertainment.  
At least two generations of one branch of my family lived in Berkeley County, Virginia (which later became West Virginia) before they migrated to central Kentucky.  After staying there for a generation, they moved to Indiana for two generations, then to extreme western Kentucky in an area known as Madrid Bend or Kentucky Bend.  What motivated each of these moves?  Did they have the Daniel Boone mindset that wanted to go westward away from the crowds or was it primarily economics - the allure of land ownership?  I want to know these things.  I want to know how my ancestors dealt with the issues of a frontier society.  While many of the answers are buried, a few are there to be discovered and that is what drives me.  That is “Why Genealogy.”

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