First published on May 28, 2016.
I haven’t posted in awhile and I’m sorry. The truth is, I kind of got burnt out doing my research (Warning for the post, it may be a little sad and existential). I can dig and dig and dig through records to find a birth date or how many times someone was married but I’ll never really know who they really were. I won’t know what made them happy, how they acted, if they liked to bake or ride horses or read. Life now is drastically different than it was 100 years ago and somethings I will never understand. Yes, somethings are the same, but most of them aren’t. The social codes that we operate by today are different than they were even 25 years ago.
I wish that my five year old self could have asked my great grandmother what her parents were like. As much as records get me, I definitely yearn for more information, and not the kind that you can get from a census. Now we have so many ways to express ourselves. My ancestors have only to look at my Facebook or this blog to know what I was really like, and not be left the bare bones of my life.
I know that this information might be out there, but it’s probably not. It makes it more important for me to interview my family, to see what they can remember about their parents or great grandparents, to find out more about their personalities. I’ve got some interviews with my grandpa and my great-uncle so I’ll listen to those and see what I can drum up.
I work in a nursing home, dementia and memory loss are something that I encounter multiple times per day. Reminiscence is something that I try to encourage everyday at work, and I can see the light that it brings to people’s eyes when they recount a fun story about their loved ones, little quirks they may have had, trips from their childhood. It’s made me realize that the past is important. You can get stuck there, and that’s never good. But it’s important, at least for me, to know where I come from. It’s a major part of me whether or not I acknowledge it. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for all these thousands of people who lived their lives.
I wonder if my ancestors would like me, or if I would like them. Thanks to all of my family, I live a great life. I have the Internet, I can spend time researching my family, and I don’t have to toil anywhere. I have access to health care and as a woman, I was able to get a graduate degree. Certainly things that it would have been hard for my grandmother to do. I think this is where my fear of disconnection comes from. I’m a different woman that I would have been had I been born in 1890 instead of 1990. Would my ancestors be able to understand my life and would I be able to understand theirs? That’s why I want to know their personalities, because that’s something that everyone has had and will have and I think that it is the easiest way to understand them at least from my perspective.
I know that this post is angsty, I’m trying to explain why sometimes digging into my ancestors burns me out. I still love to do it, and it always makes me excited. I can spend hours trying to find something and I can block out everything to the point where if my partner asks me a question, I’ll get startled. I’m going to try to organize my research, finish working on the pictures that I have and try to interview more of my family. It might be awhile yet until I post again, but I haven’t given up on discovering my origin stories.