Wednesday, July 8, 2015

576. Your Ancestry IS What It IS

Genealogists spend a lot of time, money, and energy tracing their ancestors through all their many twists and turns. Sometimes what they find are not the most glittering events and the most sterling people that history has to offer.
            This truism again came to mind in a media storm caused by a recent attempt to “massage” the past. Note the below statement from the Family Tree Magazine Blog:
            “PBS has decided to postpone future seasons of the Henry Louis Gates documentary genealogy series "Finding Your Roots" after determining that celebrity guest Ben Affleck improperly influenced producers to leave out a reference to his slave-owning ancestors. PBS also concluded that Gates should have informed the network ‘of Mr. Affleck’s efforts to affect program content.’"
            This event should once again remind genealogy researchers that they are historians, and, as such, they should hold to high standards of scholarship and high standards of ethics. If some of your people were ladies of the evening or crooked gamblers or folks on the “wrong” side of history, well, they were what they were and you are a product of all that, like it or not.
            Personally, I rather favor those ancestors. They add a little salt to the unending parade of farmers and housewives or uninspiring masses. I had a great-great-grandmother who was arrested for attempted murder in a suspected love triangle. I really like that lady! Another ancestor married three women and fathered children without the formality of a little divorce or two. Who knew?
            So, don’t go into this hobby unless you can handle what you might find. Be prepared for the unexpected, because you will certainly get it. Be honest or be gone. Remember, your ancestry has already been written and it is what it is. Celebrate it.

1 comment:

  1. This can be attributed to a person who did not do the research themselves. As we go back in time, we sometimes explore the events and place in which our ancestors lived. We can see that as we approach place and time, we realize there is the possibility of encountering slavery.
    Mr. Affleck never took that trip in time, so it was a surprise to him. None the less, he should accept that is the past and he was not part of those times. Too bad he didn't let it air, it would have been interesting.