Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Things I Don’t Care About in Genealogy

There are so many things to love about genealogy: the thrill of research, the fabulous social aspects and cousin connections, the OCD satisfaction to be found by filling in all the little boxes, the feeling of power and competence in mastering the neat genea-gadgets and genea-apps (OK, this one doesn’t apply to me), the educational and scholarly aspects, and the opportunity to indulge our artistic side in writing and scrapbooking.

But not everything associated with genealogy holds an interest for me. Here are 10 things I can list right off the bat that I don’t give a fig about.

1. Family crests. Really. Don’t need more junk around the house.

2. The One-World Super-Duper Ginormongous Family Tree. Yeah, I believe we’re all related somewhere down the line. And the OWSDGFT kind of proves it: all families have fights, and this thing causes all sorts of fights, so we must all be related, right? And who wants to have proof that they are related to PeeWee Herman, Sylvester Stallone, Adolph Hitler, and that jerk who cut in front of you on the highway the other day?

3. Being related to Charlemagne. He’s what - my 33rd great-grandfather? I probably have more genes in common with PeeWee Herman. Oh, wait.

4. Having a gazillion people in my family tree. Not only does my computer only have so much memory, I only have so much memory.

5. Having an Indian Princess among my ancestors. I’ll be satisfied with any ole run-of-the-mill Native American.

As close as I'll ever get to an Indian Princess

6. Being related to any living celebrities. See Number 2 above. It would just be my luck.... Besides, judging from old family pictures, we tend more toward the Marjorie Main model than the Katherine Hepburn model.

7. Being able to “jump the pond” with all my lines. Well, yeah, OK, a little interest, at least for a few lines. But really, I’m plenty busy just finding out what the heck my ancestors were up to in this country.

8.  Winning arguments.

“Oh, BTW, we aren’t related to Sir Christopher So-and-So. That genealogy is bogus.”

“But I found it on lots of online trees. It must be true.”

“The DNA evidence indicates that we aren’t related.”

“Oh, that DNA stuff is just pseudo-science.”

“But look at this guy here, his mother would only have been eight years old when he was born.”

“It has been known to happen. There was a case in India....”

Waste of breath/ink/time.

9. Having only ancestors who were morally impeccable and totally nice. It’s not that I have a preference for scoundrels and stinkers, it’s just that the scoundrels and stinkers left more records.

10. “Finishing my research.” Where’s the fun in that?


  1. Greta, your blog post was a breath of fresh air for me at the end of a long day. Thank you for reminding us all that genealogy should be FUN!

  2. Could not agree more! You nailed my top ten. I

  3. I agree with all of them, LOL! Fun post!

  4. Couldn't have said it better myself.

  5. Perfect! You made me laugh this morning and it all could not be more true.

  6. Great, fun post Greta! Thoroughly enjoyed it! Thanks!

  7. Love this post! Ditto for me on all your points.

  8. Loved all 10, but particularly #8!! Fun read.

  9. Love your humor and honesty! So very well said!

  10. So true! Thanks, Greta, for saying it out loud and proud.

  11. In a dark windowless room I might confess to being partly guilty of a couple of your "issues". But, you will be sworn to secrecy, or you know that phrase, "I'll have to do you great bodily harm if you tell." Or something like that.

    Great post, giggle fest.

    OOOO, does a family rumor with something to do with Blackbeard count for any of these issues??


  12. Loved your humourous article - with a lot of truth behind it! It made very entertaining reading. Susan

  13. I. Love. This.

    So much.

  14. Great points, Greta! I like your take on genealogy.

  15. Great post, Greta! I totally agree!

  16. I agree with everyone else....LOVE your list.

  17. Thank you all for your kind comments!

    And Carol, I don't look down on people for all of these things; some of them are just beyond my powers (lots of people in tree, for instance); others just are not an area of interest (for instance, I can see how a very visually oriented person would be interested in family crests). And then the Native American ancestor - I'd actually love to have at least one, but it wouldn't have to be a princess. Oh, yeah, and finding out where they came from - I can see being curious about that, but for my families I think most are Scots Irish, then English, Welsh, a few Dutch, Palatine, maybe a Huguenot or two (would actually love to trace them back). There are Highsmiths that all the descendants just can't find a homeland for, and I personally would like to trace my Moore line as far back as I can because I am sort of obsessed with them. The thing is, I think some people skip over some really interesting stories and people just to "push the line back" - and I KNOW that you are not guilty of that!

  18. Perfect top ten Greta! #7 and 10 are my two faves, but all hit pretty much hit the nail on the head!

  19. Could I frame this? :)
    And there's a special place in my humour chest for #2 ...

  20. Well said, Greta, as always, with your very personal touch!

  21. I was talking to someone recently, and she told me she has found royal blood in nearly ALL of her ancestral lines! Really? ALL of them? I think I was supposed to be impressed, but I really wasn't. While it might be fun to claim some connection to the beautiful Mountbatten/Windsors or the Tudors, really, they're just people. I've been proud to discover that I have coal miners in my lineage. Nothing glamourous, famous, or fancy, but they were hard-working people...and I'm not only okay with that, I'm proud of it.

    Now, if I happen to find out that I am distantly related to classic movie actors William Holden or Gary Cooper, I probably WOULD get excited.

    Thanks for the great chuckle!!

  22. Thank goodness for you and your talent for writing anything, be it a serious topic or something funny like this one.

  23. Great list and I agree with every item on it!

  24. Southwest Arkie - I suspect your family background looks a lot like mine - long histories in this country; now my husband's background is different in that they were much more recent immigrants, so it is nice to at least get the original town or village form them when I can.

    BDM - I would be delighted if you did!

    Susan - Thank you so much! I must admit, it took me a while to realize what my actual priorities were....

    Patti - I've heard the same thing from a person or two and had the same reaction. What surprised me most in taking up genealogy was how attached I got to my farming families (which is most of them).

    Barbara - You are so kind. This is perhaps a "half-serious" subject for me, but I was in a really silly mood when I wrote it.

    Cinnamon - One of the things I love about genealogy is that it can be such a source of humor!

    Genealady and Becky - Happy to hear that this strikes a chord!

  25. So I arrived late for the party. Good post and relatable for me. Smiles in the midst of great piles of paper are greatly needed.

  26. Great list! I agree whole heartedly!

  27. Just excellent, Greta! You nailed it.

  28. As a former science teacher, I especially enjoyed this observation: “Oh, that DNA stuff is just pseudo-science.”

  29. Hummer - I love the image of "smiles in the midst of great piles of paper" - the best place to be!

    Karen - Thank you!

    Tonia - And we could add: "I'm not making this up!"

    Mavis - There is humor in truth!

    Kathy - People will believe such wild things, and then go into denial when the real things contradict what they want to believe - we just have to give on on convincing them otherwise.

  30. LOL. Love the list! Oh, and Charlemagne really is my 35th grea-grandfather. Impressive I know. Yeah, I'm sure there was no hanky-panky going on outside of wedlock over the last 1,000+ years. The last thing we want is a scandal in the family. A direct line indeed... ;)

  31. Love, Love, Love it! Thank you!

  32. Wow! You really hit a chord with this post! All those responses must be gratifying. I'll add my "hear hear!" to your list. I'm only going back so far. Looking at those records from 1500-1800 or so from Gersteheim In Alsace and trying to read the crazy handwriting -- I finally found a few ancestors -- back to the early 1700s. That's good enough for me -- on one tree only! But I did get to post about it and solve a mystery, so that was fun. Now onward! (and skip the family crest!)

  33. I don't know how I missed this post! I must have been on vacation or something because I'm an avid fan of your blog and always read it. Well, I guess not always. ;-) Anyway, it gave me a really good chuckle, lol!

    Thanks so much for participating in the COG, Greta. If you hadn't submitted your iGene award winners I likely would never have read this post and that would be a real shame. I always need a good laugh!