29, July 2012

I meet with a sci-fi group every other week.  We watch a series of science fiction programs, going through them one episode at a time per session.  Afterward we discuss not only what we saw, but how it pertains to us as human beings, and as spiritual beings.  This isn’t a homogenous group of people, so some of our discussions can go from zero to out-there pretty quickly.  I love this group.  Recently the question came up, do our memories define us?  All who spoke were in agreement that they do.  What we remember and have learned from the past affects our actions.  That they define us is especially true if you believe we are defined by our actions.

Which made me wonder, when we’re doing research on our ancestors, or maybe another historical figure, what were their memories that led them to make the decisions they made?  And isn’t that part of the fun and mystery of the search?  Why did Ashford and Jemime split up the family?  He moved to Ohio with the children, and she went into the asylum in Williamsburg, VA.  What happened?  Their son, David, became a pillar of his community in an Indiana town and was cited for his industriousness.  Did his memories push him on to be so driven?  Which ones?

Why did Ann own 42 slaves in 1850?  Where was her husband at that time?   Why did her son change his name after the Civil War?   Why did they live in a mixed race area after it was all over?  She still had ample money.  How did her memories change her over time, especially in that era?

Moreover, what if you come from a family that has no memories?  How do you then define yourselves?

At first glance, genealogy can seem like a lovely hobby for elderly aunts.  It’s a pleasant and noble pastime in which to occupy their autumn years.  It’s interesting finding out all the births, marriages, deaths, and addresses of those who came before you.  Isn’t that just sweet?  But what happens when you uncover more than the simple facts?  You find instead, some real humans.  What do you do then?  Make more memories?


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