Thursday, January 17, 2008

Why we tell the story

Genealogy, for me, is not just about gathering facts. It's not just a person's name and important dates. Genealogy is writing a story - where did a person come from, what did they do for a living, where did they live, who did they live with, getting the fullest picture possible and then trying to figure out their motivations for the things they did, putting their life in context of that time and place in history and wondering what their everyday life must have been like. Why did my great-grandfather leave Ireland? Why did my grandfather's grandmother, widowed in her 20s, never remarry? What was it like for Edward Raynor, not even 20-years-old, to settle in the heart of Dutch territory on Long Island with nothing but trees and streams and Native Americans around?

I'm a reader. I'm always interested in a good story, a well-rounded story, a true story (a story can be "true" even if it's fiction). And I don't believe in destiny, but I believe that everything that happens - every decision we make and every action we take - leads us to the point at which we find ourselves. I wouldn't be the person I am today or where I am today if not for everything my ancestors did and were before me. And I can honor them by remembering what those things were and helping future generations remember what those things were.

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