Saturday, March 19, 2011

Take off those rose-colored glasses

My simple reminder posting about last night's NBC television broadcast of Who Do You Think You Are? inspired a brisk reaction. Anonymous posted this comment:
"I caught the depressing Rosie O'Donnell episode when it first aired several weeks ago. Quite a depressing episode and a dubious time investment is my take. Sorry if pointing out this stinker of an episode offends anyone, but I gotta call 'em like I see 'em, Myrt."

Among the tasks we have as genealogists is to determine the facts of an ancestor's life from surviving documents of the time period. Then we must put that life in historical perspective to gain a better understanding of just who those ancestors were.

Sometimes it is hard to view our ancestors' lives without a prejudicial eye because we enjoy 21st century comforts, the likes of which our progenitors never could have dreamed.

Revealing Rosie's Irish ancestral roots, including the workhouse tour poignantly illustrate the harsh life that many of our Irish and English ancestors endured.

Unraveling the mystery of a grandfather who disappeared 70 years ago was a similarly tender experience for Kim Cattrell.

We cannot all have French royal roots like last season's Brooke Shields since, it takes a lot of commoners to pay for a monarch's lavish lifestyle.

Wish that I could wrap up my family history in a nice bow, complete with tales of stately mansions, castles and chivalrous knights, but for most folks like me, life wasn't like that for our progenitors.

So are ancestral tales of living a meager existence, high infant mortality rates, short life spans, wars and rumors of war, political unrest, crop failures, dust storms, plagues without benefit of antibiotics, earthquakes, volcanoes, pelting rains and flash floods, taxation without representation, fires in tenement buildings depressing? Yes they are. But one or more natural or man-made disasters surely affected our ancestors.

To this Mr. Myrt adds "Life was dirty, muddy, unhealthy, wet, dangerous, brutal and short. If you don't like that, don't study history -- family or otherwise."

Ol' Myrt here agrees with "Anonymous" that we must call 'em like we see 'em, but we must also take care to remove those rose-colored glasses first.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.