Thursday, January 9, 2014

Same Sex Marriage, Genealogy, and How We Will Be Viewed a Century From Now

Life has a sense of humor. I know that there are people who live their lives to the music of a score that has played in their heads since childhood, with few, deviations or diversions. They set out to learn a certain area of study and they accomplish it happily, usually becoming the best in their chosen field. Even their hobbies follow a similar path. They finish their projects and then plan, and execute others.

Then, there are the rest of us; we wander through childhood and adolescence, examining things, dropping those when other things worthy catch our eyes, darting on to another things, turning it over, and considering it for a time. And, it repeats and repeats... Eventually, most of us are forced into a job or into a major in a subject matter that forces us to narrow what we do with our lives. 

A small number of us rebel in various ways. I studied everything and minored in what I couldn’t major in and eventually was bribed (with a raise, contingent on securing my degree) by an employer into taking my undergraduate degree, with a given deadline of five days. Do you know how hard it is to find department heads to sign off on a degree in the heat and humidity at the beginning of August? The joke was on me; my completed majors had to take a backseat and become minors, but I managed to locate just enough deans that I completed the graduation process and I got the raise, if not officially, all of my earned degrees. Does it matter? No, not really, because the knowledge is still (usually) there and now, after years have passed, nobody really cares. 

One hundred years from now, it will, perhaps, provide a confusing mystery to a genealogist, which becomes my point here: we are making history now, as we live our lives. Yet, I would be willing to bet that, even as genealogists, we are leaving a rather confusing trail of who we really were, for future genealogists to interpret, and genealogy, my friends, is more than facts, it is about interpreting what they mean and about extracting the true stories behind them. It is about using the best possible judgement available.

It’s a difficult concept for us now, to easily grasp. We are too close to the actual incidents to have the same perspective that those in the future, unborn generations will  use view us with, and most of all, to draw conclusions about us. For example, in my own life, I have a daughter who was born in the 1980’s in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Despite a a striking resemblance to Barbie and an affinity for the color, pink, her birth certificate says that she is, indeed, a boy. My husband and I have filled out and paid for this to be corrected numerous times, both together and individually. Yet, this error remains uncorrected, and despite having extracted promises from everyone from the clerks to the county recorder, every “corrected” birth certificate that has been sent to us, has remained exactly as it always was. She is still a male.

Our daughter is now an adult and fortunately, the Colorado DMV, the Federal Passport Agency, and her husband, have all agreed that, despite Cook County Illinois’ stubborn stance that our daughter is a male, they agree that she is a female. However, as my daughter, she inherited my attitude and has found a silver lining in it that has made her rather pleased. She proudly points out that as a male, her marriage to her husband, who is both a male on his birth certificate and actuality, is proof that the State of Colorado has approved at least one, legal, same-sex marriage, and it is hers,...wait,,...theirs!

This is but one example of how we need to live and record our lives in a way that will help future generations to understand the past. I have other examples to beat you over the with and other thoughts to expound on, but for today, I will let this sink in. In the meantime, consider how hard it is to leave a real, honest legacy of truthful information through the eyes of those living their lives today.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year and A Gift to the Future!

The holidays are over. It’s a new year, but that still means it is January. There are decorations to put away, tax documents to gather, a chill in the air at best, and snow, cold, and ice, for many. 

Among all of this, one of my yearly tasks is to put “the book” away. This book was innocently created long ago and contains a record, going back nearly twenty years, of our family’s (and often friends’) hopes, dreams, observations, wishes, memories, and histories. It has evolved to become a book of the highest value.

I could spend all of 2014 describing this book, and from time-to-time I may discuss it. However, the focus of this blog is my journey toward my Board Certification in Genealogy and “The Book” occupies another place in my world.

The place that it occupies is the writer in me. That said, I am creating a book proposal that contains the history of this book, some of the family stories, and a guide to creating something like it for others create and through it, they may be able to retain an aspect of their own lives that would otherwise be lost. As a guide book, per se, I intend to show how history can be recorded for future generation. The concept is not limited to large families or small ones, but can be designed to fit the needs of any situation. It can be simple, elaborate, or in between and it requires only the skills that each person possesses. 

However, there are some very important steps involved in the creation of this book. These are things that we have learned over the years and are necessary to get the best results. Using these guidelines, anyone can develop something as unique and as valuable as our book. Experience, as they say, is a wonderful teacher.

In the meantime, I am back to blogging about genealogy here and my experiences in certification, as well as my experiences with sources, brick walls, finding a way through the many twists and turns that lie out there in the genealogical world. I will leave you with a genealogical tip to start your new year off in the best possible way.

Today’s tip is this: Always remember that, while you are looking for records and clues to your ancestors’ lives, you yourself, are making history for your descendants. Even if you have no children, you are someone’s aunt, uncle, or cousin. You do matter to those who come after us and it is up to all of us living now to leave an honest, accurate record of our lives. What might seem embarrassing to you now will become a surprising quirk once time has past and we are noted in history, some one hundred years from now. Be authentic. Do not hide the facts, especially medical issues or procedures, if only from the future. If you cannot bear to speak the truth now, then leave a letter with instructions that it is not to be opened until decades after your demise, or even a century from now. Just be real and honest about who you are. The future will thank you for it.