Saturday, March 2, 2024

It's NOT All About Me


Every so often, while I'm working on my family tree online, a window will pop up with a question: someone would like me to complete a market survey about my experience in using that genealogy service. While I'm not averse to helping a company offer exactly what its customers find useful, I began to stale on such questionnaires when I realized one thing: the anticipated average subject in those surveys does not seem to be on the same wavelength as I am.

To put it bluntly, I do not "do" genealogy to feel better about myself. I don't spend hours working on my tree, or squinting my way through impossible-to-read hundred-year-old records, just to get a better sense of how I fit in. It's not a matter of personal pride. Or belonging. Or anything about me. In fact, my motivation would be just the opposite: piecing together the story of my ancestors is not all about me in the least. I do it for the sheer amazement I feel when I learn about the fascinating people whose names fill the branches in my family tree.

It's about the stories. Their stories. More than that, it's about the obstacles each ancestor needed to overcome in his or her life—with each life very different than the life, even, of close kin. As each life unfolds, it beckons me onward through a story much like those which make us wonder, "What happened next?"

How can I answer survey questions such as the ones I've seen lately, when all I can offer in response is "None of the above"?

Granted, I may be an outlier. Perhaps, addicted to solving puzzles. Or contributing to the community effort of making available the stories I've found that might turn out to be about someone else's ancestor. Whatever it is, it's a quest to discover stories, especially the stories of people who continue to amaze me.

Take this month's research project: finding the details about my third great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth Taliaferro Rainey's mother, Mary Meriwether Gilmer. I already know I am heading into a family filled with surnames which appeared in our country's history—but whether this line leads to those distant connections, I don't yet know.

As I start the month, one task I tackle is to look at all the DNA matches for that specific ancestor. In the case of Mary Meriwether Gilmer, the children from her two marriages bring me enough descendants to yield seventy seven DNA matches—and that is just at's ThruLines database. I suspect I'll be quite busy this month, behind the scenes, just checking the records to confirm that many matches from one company's test, let alone the other four where I've tested.

Along the way, as I reach out to other researchers on any given month's Twelve Most Wanted project (or those others reach out to me), the collaboration brings a more multi-dimensional view of the ancestor in question. The stories are still in the shadows, but as the facts emerge, the tale takes shape, and I once again fall in love with the rich and varied details which make that ancestor exactly the unique individual whom I'm now discovering. It's for their lives, their story, that I keep at this process. And that is reward enough.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...