Several of my friends have become addicted to genealogy. They talk of days spent following clues on ancestry.com and suddenly looking up to find it's dark outside and they have forgotten to eat. I figured I'd better stay away from this work because sometimes I forget to eat anyway and if I would sit that long, Chris would have to come with an appliance dolly to bring me to bed. I decided to leave the tedious ancestor work to those who can't seem to get enough of it.
Then I started trying to identify people in old family photos. I don't have ancestry.com, but I looked up a few things on familysearch.org - the free site. It took a bit of digging, but I found some of the information I was looking for and, one thing led to another.
When I looked at the clock, I was surprised to see I had been working for nearly 4 hours. Damn.
On the other hand, I was fascinated. Other people have obviously done a lot of work connecting branches to my family tree, which is as tall as Jack's beanstalk and even wider than it is tall. I couldn't stop clicking on those little arrows to make the previous generations of ancestors show up. When the Welsh names started to appear, I was hooked. It's cool to find names like Gryffydd or Dafydd or Angharad, especially when I actually know how to pronounce them. I knew my Welsh language study would be useful.
Then King Henry I, sitting on a royal branch, made his presence known.
Whoa. Am I really a direct descendant of King Henry I? Well... if everything is correct, I'm related through one of his bastard sons. I've heard he had approximately 200 illegitimate children so it's entirely plausible. I went further and further back, mindlessly clicking on those little arrows that showed up with each new branch. I saw various kings and queens and princes and the names went from Welsh to English to Scottish to French to Roman. I passed by Constantine with another click. By this time, I was getting used to the fact I was of royal blood, and yawned.
Then the Norse line came with names like Agnar Sigtrygsson and Solveig Halfdansdatter. Amazing! I had no idea there was any Norse blood in my veins. But..when Odin of Asgaarde appeared, I began to wonder if this was totally accurate. So what did I do? I asked Google. Okay. The records kept by the Church of Latter Day Saints are accurate - or as accurate as they can be considering the spelling errors on some of the hand written census records. The family trees are only as accurate as the supporting documents or lack thereof which are attached to them - or not.
There are small red boxes containing exclamation points that alert you to "data problems" in your family tree. This might mean that, according to the dates (which you or someone has obviously researched), the mother was born after her husband died or she was 4 years old when her first child was born. I still haven't figured out how to correct mistakes on the family tree, at least the one I just made. Sawing off the branch doesn't seem to be an option.
On the other hand, considering the number of descendants many of those famous folks have, being related to kings, queens, and other celebrities of the ancient past, is not at all unlikely. From the time I was young, I was taught to be proud that we are direct descendants of William Bradford from the Mayflower. We have the proof for this one. And good old Will has at least two million living descendants.
As for the questionable ancestors, we just have to go through and find all the birth records, death records, immigration records, marriage records, photos of gravestones, and on and on and on. Find enough records, attach them to the people in your family tree, and pretty soon, there you go. Climb around in the branches and chat with Marcus Aurelius or trade stories with Attila the Hun.
Enough going back in time for one night. I think I'll veg out for awhile and watch TV. Dr. Who, anyone?