Tuesday, July 23, 2013

After the Names, Dates and Locations are Gathered, What is Genealogy??

I just began my vacation reading list more than a week ahead of time because the book arrived and I could not resist reading "just the Prologue."  Well the Prologue to Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul by John M. Barry reached out and grabbed me and I was absolutely forced to keep reading into Chapter 1 -- resistance was futile, so I went with it.

And here is the quote on the very first page of the first chapter that convinced me this was going to be a genealogy read every bit as much as it was going to be a history read.  Mr. Barry wrote of Roger Williams, "One cannot know what precisely he took from [his] experiences.  One cannot know the heart and mind of Williams or any other person.  But one can stand where he stood, see what he saw, know much of what he heard and read, and thus come to some understanding of his perspective." 

EXACTLY! I thought. This is as good a definition of active genealogy as I have read in some time.  It summarizes not just the motivation of a historian, but when personalized it is the siren call to the genealogist too!  How dry would genealogy be if it were just a hobby of collecting names, dates and locations?  Isn't the real excitement of genealogy the striving to understand the perspective of one's ancestors and relatives -- to try to see if one can see things through the prism of their experiences and perhaps approach knowing even a little something about their hearts and souls?  THAT is what fascinates as we look at a photograph of an ancestor we never actually knew and wonder, "What was she really like?"

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The "Wordle" created by the author using http://www.wordle.net
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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1 comment:

  1. Great thoughts, John. I concur. I have found that on lines where I can find nothing more than those basic facts (name, dates, etc.) I get easily bored and move on to lines where I can find a more depth. That is the hunt that I am on.