Saturday, November 12, 2011

It's all in the genes

I have been tracing my family history (or histories, in fact) as well as those of Desiree, for many years now. So long, in fact, I cannot recall what it was that sparked my interest or got me started.

One of the outcomes has been a cluster of websites (because I can).

Another has been what my daughters call their "Another graveyard look". This expression is a mix of bored tolerance and indifference and accompanies a glazed and distant look in the eyes. It usually appears when ancestry is mentioned, or a graveyard which may contain headstones of interest (to me and/or Desiree) is sighted.

It has also produced a not inconsiderable database of relations - near and distant - and some obstruse connections. Related is a library of photographs, most inherited from my parents.

And lurking in the not-too distant horizon is an attempt to document the stories - not just the dry and (admittedly somewhat dusty) recitation of the 'trees' but, where possible, some of the human stories. I fondly envisage a 'novelisation' of the pictures. Such are plans for 'retirement'!

Does anyone else care about all of this? Not really, is the short answer. My brother Ron & sister Barbara aren't really bothered; Ron, I suspect is pleased someone has done it; and Barbara is deeply involved in tracking David's family. Nephews and nieces? Probably not; I've never inquired.

And yet, in a very real sense, that's who I'm doing it for.

I'm confident, that at some point, each of the next generation will want to know the answers to questions of ancestry - who, where, when, why. So while, I've never really bothered to try and inflict upon them tales of the past ("I remember when I was ..." or "You grandfather was ..."), they are aware that there is a fund of knowledge built and recorded, and that all they have to do is ask.

After all, what underpins the whole endeavour, is a sense of the value of continuity. It is not everyone's interest, and even when the interest is piqued, it may be narrowly focussed, or merely a passing curiosity. But the Internet has been a god-send in this sense. It can be treated like a giant 'archive' and will linger, and be accessible when the inevitable questions arise, even if I'm not.

Already I receive sporadic emails from more or less distant relations, from around the world, who stumble on the sites and have further questions, or provide information or corrections, or merely say 'thank you'.

So, do I care if the kids don't take an interest in the pastime? No. They also don't care about basketball, and have different tastes in music and food. What is important to me, is that it is done; preserved; ready to be used or read as, when, and if, they are ready.

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