Question of the Week: How has researching your family history changed how you view yourself?

+13 votes

Click for large shareable image for social mediaHow has researching your family history changed how you view yourself?

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in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.8m points)
reshown by Chris Whitten

15 Answers

+13 votes
Best answer
I have come to view myself as dull and boring, in the eyes of the people I associate with, instead of the exciting fun person I used to be, always ready for any kind of activity.  Now I have to exert conscious effort to avoid running on and on about all kinds of long deceased people that nobody I know has any interest in.
by Gaile Connolly G2G6 Pilot (926k points)
selected by Elaine Musser
Gaile, I so feel your pain.  I always wonder why, at family gatherings, even though all my relatives know how absorbed I am by genealogy, no one asks me what I have discovered lately!
Gaile, you are absolutely not dull and boring. You are only a little older and wiser than you once were. I am also around my younger family that are totally absorbed in themselves. After we are not around anymore, trust me, we will be greatly missed.
Julie, I suspect you are the best at what you are doing in genealogy, and you are much more respected in your family than you know.
Maybe some day, when the next generation is my age, they will care more for our history (and have time for it).
too funny Gaile!  But yes - my famile rolls their eyes when I tell them about "the dead people"
Hahhaha. I can so relate. My friends, except one genealogy geek like me, just stare blankly when I try to relate a new discovery. I always preface things by saying that i am not bragging, which I don't think I am, but they think I am anyway. My husband keeps saying that, if I go back far enough in these time travels, we may share a relative with the same spear or club, who lived in the same cave.
Ah, Gaile, yes I too will at the drop of a hello start in on what I have discovered while researching various kin ... great way to put someone else asleep. Works every time.
I have the same thing when I mention anything to my kids about an interesting fact I have found out, it's the rolling eyes and "why do I want to know this?" the younger generation really know how to make you feel 2 inches tall xxx
Well it happened last night! My over achiever granddaughter is in a history class in college, and the professor has asked them to write a paper on the history of their family. She is now all over WiKiTree to write her paper. It can happen, and hooray for her professor!
Gaile, you read my mind.  I have learned to seek out the like minded people in my family who not only share my passion, but who can also help fill in the blanks in our family history.  I think of it this way:  those who have so little interest in learning about their roots are missing a vital part of living and being connected to others.
My son keeps saying to me, what are you doing? More dead people. But it is both fascinating and humbling. Life in Australia in the pioneering days was hard work.
+13 votes
Being an art major in college, I always planned to spend my later years painting, but I have spent a great deal of time visiting museums. I now believe that the best thing I can leave for posterity is my knowledge about my family. Doing genealogy has made me view myself as a writer of biographies. I feel this is where my real talents are. Yes, I will leave a couple of paintings, but I will mainly leave a great wealth of knowledge about my own family and a few other families I have had the pleasure of knowing.
by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Pilot (444k points)
Generations after you will treasure that gift. :)
Thank you Eowyn, you gave me the incentive to dig though all my photos and make them a big part of the biographies.
Wow. I am an artist and have been feeling VERY guilty about not working on my art, and spending all my available time doing genealogical research. I am not sure all of this won't culminate in some artwork, but I am happy to hear about your desire to leave a creative legacy. Thanks.
To be honest with you Liese, I really am not thrilled with my paintings. I have had to do watercolors and put glass on them to make me quit touching them up. I can touch up my biographies and be happy with them. Thank you for your sweet comment, and I hope you stay with genealogy and art.
Alexis, I see that this question was posted and answered a year ago. I am just starting my journey into my ancestry and what a buzz it is! I can't imagine a more wonderful legacy to leave for future generations than your treasure chest of family biographies.

 Also I feel it is especially important in these narcissistic times in which so many people see themselves as 'more important, i.e. 'better than you' because I am rich (no matter how 'filthy'), or white and/or male, or endowed with a (culturally defined) 'fabulous' body or face, or are a 'celebrity'!; conversely, 'I /you am/are a failure, a loser, and worthless because I am none of these'.

When I think of my maternal grandfather the word 'integrity' always springs to mind. How little of that I see in today's world. We need to revisit the past to relearn what is genuinely of value. Life then was more often brutal than not, and our lives today are cushy by comparison. But what has that gained us? Many feel empty or never have 'enough'. Collectively we are destroying our world. Our forefathers could teach us so much if we just got to know them. Your family and hopefully many others will at least . have that opportunity. Thank you for what you do.
Elizabeth, thank you for your comment. My dear friend for the last 62 is with me as I was reading it. If I can ever be of any help for you as you start your ancestor journey, please let me know.
Alexis, Thank you for your gracious reply and your even more gracious offer. I may well take you up on it when I get myself organized enough.  Elizabeth
I understand about organizing. Be sure and remember I am here to help.
+11 votes
It has made me more respectful of our history and much more tradition-minded.  I really appreciate our traditions and legacy our ancestors left us since becoming involved with genealogy.
by James Stratman G2G6 Mach 8 (84.6k points)
+10 votes
I have learned that I am a product of everyone who came before me, and I have been shaped by their experiences as well as the abilities and qualities I inherited from them.
by Julie Kelts G2G6 Pilot (456k points)
Julie, I am just beginning to get acquainted with my ancestors and I feel very much the same as you. I am much the ' loner' but I now feel "connected", like I have "come home" and, I must also say, increasinglyI feel at home with this community of Wiki-Tree-ers. Thanks for your post. Elizabeth Clyne
+12 votes
It's reinforced my appreciation of our common humanity. We're all cousins if you go back far enough.
by Alex Stronach G2G6 Pilot (327k points)
edited by Alex Stronach
+9 votes
For as long as I can remember, I have been a 'loner.' Not lonely. Not a recluse. Just a loner. Even in a crowd, I feel like a 'loner.' I have a small, select group of friends and we are very close. Two of us grew up together from childhood. Three are colleagues I worked with in hospice. Two are cousins that I connected with as I began my journey into genealogy. I have been doing genealogy since 1977; however, I have become an avid genealogist since my return from Asia in 1993, particularly with the advent of the computer. How has researching my family history changed my view of myself? I am not really a 'loner.' I am surrounded by family, their stories, their lives, their histories.
by Carol Baldwin G2G6 Pilot (543k points)
Love this answer!
Thanks, Pip!
+13 votes
It’s made me much more positive and grateful. It was recommended that I take up an engrossing hobby to deal with chronic pain so I took up genealogy. When I reflect on the hardships my ancestors endured like starvation, losing children, unemployment, never seeing loved ones again after emigration, I have nothing to complain about, even on a bad day. I look at the country they helped to create, and frankly, I’m just so proud to be descended from some amazingly strong early New Zealand colonists.
by Fiona McMichael G2G6 Pilot (166k points)
Yes, I frequently think about how lucky I am just to have a refrigerator, hot and cold running water, a washing machine, a nearby grocery store when I need food, and so many other modern comforts.  It's hard to imagine how people found time to do everything they needed to do in the old days, considering how difficult and labor-intensive everything was.
Julie, can you just imagine what any of our ancestors would say about all our modern conveniences?

Pip, I have thought about your question ever since I saw it yesterday.  Probably straying way out of the original subject matter, but, yes, I do wonder. They would no doubt be amazed by our technology.  Imagine how magical a television would seem.  Imagine how astonished you or I would have been 50 years ago to see an iPhone!

But would they choose our era?  I think they would be lost in our modern world,  horrified by our freeways (possibly altogether afraid of our high-speed cars, with good reason considering their ongoing death toll), outraged by the regimentation of modern working life, and appalled and disgusted by the amount of noise we live with.  (Who on earth loves the noise of the ubiquitous leaf blower?) They would also probably be saddened by the excessive mobility of people today and the isolation that results for many, including many elderly.

On average, women would probably be more satisfied than men, as we now can own property, vote, work in any field we choose, control our child-bearing, wear pants, etc., and of course, as a consequence, men have lost of some of their hegemony.

I love my computer, and feel I was born to live in the Age of Information.  I would not want to give up the simple conveniences of grocery stores, running water, etc.  But studying history, my family's and history in general, also makes me aware of what we have lost.  I would not choose to go back in time, but I really wonder how many of our ancestors would choose the lifestyle of today over what they had.

+6 votes
I was a fairly happy child when I was growing up but when I was a teenger my grandmother died and thats when my world fell apart.

Because that is when my mother discovered that she was adopted and thus for me, I suddenly lost half my family. My mother has some early vague childhood memories of visiting her biological grandparents while she was being fostered out. But she lost contact when her biological mother got married. And my mother had no interest in trying to find out more of who she was.

As for me, I became quite bitter towards my mother because I desperately needed to know who I was and she didnt care and had no interest in looking or knowing. Mind you, back in the 1980s and 1990s in New Zealand, it was not particularly easy to look anyway, since there was no internet.

It has taken me some 38 years from the time my adopted grandmother died (1980) until last year (2018) when my mother finally did a DNA test for me to be able to find out her ancestry and thus finally know where I come from.

Mum and I are getting along much better these days.
by Robynne Lozier G2G6 Pilot (945k points)
+5 votes
Absolutely. It has also changed how I understand the oral traditions in my family, handing down the information about royal connections, which I thought was wishful poppycock. It was not. And, it has given me a new appreciation of oral traditions, as well.
by Liese Ricketts G2G1 (1.0k points)
+7 votes
I’m not so self-contained as I thought. Too many connections to the past that I recognize in myself. I used to hear guys proclaim, “I AM MY OWN MAN!” And now I think, “Not true.”
by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (2.2m points)
+3 votes
Being born somewhere where my father didn't come from, with my mother from abroad, I was surprised to see that all my (German) ancestors were "local" guys. When I talk of "my ancestor's towns" I mean

1. the village where my grandmaternal 2xggrandmother comes from and all her ancestors up to at least my 10xggrandfather who died in the same town after 1654.

2. the town where my grandpaternal 2x ggrandfather was born and all ancestors up to at least my 8x ggrandfather, who was born in 1655

and last but not least the town where my grandpaternal ggrandmother was born and at least her ancestors up to my 4x ggrandparents were from.

These three towns are MY towns. The towns around where many relatives are from are also my area, but I feel the closest to those 3 towns where my ancestors are from.
by Jelena Eckstädt G2G6 Pilot (800k points)
+4 votes
As an adoptee with no information about my natural mother I have found carrying out research frustrating but satisfying. I now  know a little about my natural mother ( sadly now deceased) + family + feel more positive about who I am. It also has explained some of my interests- gardening- several of my mother's ancestors had small farms where they grew food, sewing + knitting - some ancestors were weavers. Several were water gypsies, plying their trade between Athy + Dublin - I love been on a barge!
by Anon Sharkey G2G6 Mach 3 (37.2k points)
I wonder if my ancestors ever became their clients lol
+3 votes
I grew up thinking we were just a family from West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania. I have learned that simply isn't true. I am related to Barrack Obama, Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scot. I have always hoped to qualify for membership in Daughters of the Revolution and I more than qualify. I am proud of my ancestors and knowing I come from a long line of folks who fought for freedom. I am blessed with 1 beautiful daughter who loves to listen to my stories about our family and I love being able to help build her confidence by reminding her of the people who helped to create her. I love it!
+4 votes

I grew up feeling generally rootless and without much sense of connection to the places I lived in (my father was in the US Navy through my early childhood and we moved a lot), and not really knowing a great deal of family history apart from a few things I was told as a child...that my great-grandmother's father was from Ireland, that my father's family were related some way (by marriage, as it turns out) to the photographer Mathew Brady and that the guy who did the Mark Trail comic strip was some sort of cousin. Sometime around maybe the early 2000's I read an article in Wired about the LDS church's Granite Mountain records vault and their efforts to put their data on the web (online genealogy was still a fairly new thing at the time). Curiosity led me to have a look at the FamilySearch site, and I put in my surname and my father's birth location.....and found my great-grandparents and a family tree (that was surprisingly mostly accurate) back to the 1600's. Since then I've discovered ancestors who served in the Civil War, the War of 1812, the Revolution, and the colonial wars, Catholics who came to Maryland with the Calverts on the Ark and Dove, Quakers who came to Pennsylvania with William Penn, younger sons of English gentry families who sailed to Virginia to seek their fortunes, French Huguenot and German Palatine refugees, pioneering settlers on the early American frontier...and a host of cousins both famous and infamous, ranging from royalty, presidents, governors and senators to popular folk heroes to historical villains, modern celebrities and common criminals. My former sense of rootlessness has been replaced with the knowledge that I'm the product of four centuries of my ancestors' histories in America and that their history is American history on a smaller and more personal scale.

(As an aside I kind of have to wonder if that sense of rootlessness, especially in the US, where everyone is from somewhere else, is part of why genealogy seems to've grown in popularity in recent decades.)

by C Handy G2G6 Pilot (130k points)
+4 votes
Before I knew about genealogy I knew very little about any of my family members besides my closest maternal relatives, and not much about them.  I also didn't know who my paternal family was.  Finding my father and "other" family filled a hole in my heart that had been there for very many years.  Now I feel like a whole person knowing that I actually had a father and other siblings.  Reading about my ancestors has been very interesting to say the least.  I can see why some of the relatives I do know are like they are because evidently some things run in genes that most people don't think about.  I found that I'm related to so many people who were wealthy and so many royal families.  Being a person who grew up poorer than a church mouse and a very dysfunctional family, it gives me more sense of pride knowing that even though my life was so empty and I was considered trash because of my lack of money and the lifestyle my mother chose, I actually have those in my history, I can be proud to say, who were highly thought of and true leaders in the world. For some reason, just knowing these things makes me feel more confident about myself.
by Lawana Puderer G2G6 (9.1k points)
I really identify with Lawana G2G4 having been adopted when i was 6 weeks old  , all i had were the names of my biological parents and little else, but be cause i talk A lot i found my half SISTER (i never even knew she existed) i was 35 she 40.since starting geneology i feel like i finally have some kind of identity just wish i hadnt left it so late!

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