Monday, November 23, 2015

Ancestors A to Z

I pick at scabs.  A Band Aid won't stay affixed to my skin to save my soul.  At best it kind of hangs there - half on, half off.  Of course I'm left with two alternatives: to stretch the loose end of the Band Aid until it meets back up with a sticky area, pat it into place, and hope for the best - or - just pull the silly thing off right then.  I don't have enough patience to apply fresh Band Aids every hour.  I definitely don't have the patience to wait for a scab to fall off all on its own.  So if the Band Aid is determined to declare its independence, and if the scab is just going to sit there and stare back at me, I have no other choice but to begin picking at the loose ends of the crusty maroon blotch to see what lies beneath.

Now you may be asking yourself what scabs, wounds, and failed Band Aids have to do with genealogy.  Quite a lot, actually.  It's usually easy for us to document our family one or two generations back.  The Band Aid is fresh and it sticks.  The further back we attempt to trace our ancestors' lives, the more chances there are for running into stumbling blocks: missing names, incorrect census records, burned courthouses, lost documentation.  The sources are obscure.  The Band Aid falls off.

So do we keep digging, looking for fresh flesh?  Or do we leave the scab alone and hope that one day, eventually, the doggone thing will fall off on its own?  Curiosity, and that portion of my DNA that belongs to the great "Show-Me State" of Missouri [whose official animal, amusingly, is the all-too-stubborn mule], challenges me to keep digging.  I hope it will do the same for you.

I'm challenging each of us in the next year to find our ancestors "alphabetically".  There are 26 letters in the alphabet; 52 weeks in a year.  Tackling one letter a week could potentially provide us with a years' worth of answers, surprises, and revelations.  My personal challenge is not to find ancestors whose first or last names begin with every letter of the alphabet.  Rather, my challenge is to find correlations.  I might have an "A" named ancestor.  But I might not have a "W".  However, that "A" ancestor might have fought in World War I.  He might have been born in Zurich.  Finding the threads between people, places, things and events can give us a deeper understanding of those who came before ... and really, isn't that we'd want others to find out about us 100 years from now?

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