Friday, June 12, 2015

Is Genealogy Ancestor Worship?

Wiley J. Morris (Tobe) 1838 -1934
Why Do You Do Genealogy?
Is family history something to be proud of? Hasn't modern man moved on from ancestor worship? These are the questions posed in a New Castle Herald article Family Tree Futility on 29 Nov. 2011. It appears the writer truly finds no value in genealogy research or findings and I'm sure he doesn't stand alone. I have had church leaders quote I Timothy 1:4 (KJV) to prove the futility of genealogy; and we all know family members might quietly giggle at our occupation (or preoccupation).

Well, why do you do genealogy? Really, are you guilty of secretly seeking royalty? Or, have you been gifted with the "silly gene?" (Wonder which marker would reveal that buried gene?)

For me...I'll reprint why I promote genealogy research. This piece, entitled What Is Genealogy?, offers why I cherish family genealogies and family storiesJohn Brandt, (husband) in 2007 captured my thoughts in this clever piece!

What is Genealogy?
Genealogy is more than cold dates and endless hours of research. It is more than who was born, who was married and who died. It is more than who a family was, and more than what they did or where they lived. Through the study of the names, dates, migrations, census information and DNA, the cold dates become milestones in the life of someone connected to us. The births of the past become as momentous as a birth today, the marriages, jobs, and setbacks as poignant. It is not only discovering a history but also uncovering a human journey. It allows for a grand perspective and realization that we will be the birth dates, marriage dates, and death dates of a future generation. We will be the nameless faces that stare from a faded picture. And so Genealogy becomes our future. By honoring our past we teach our children to honor theirs. When we honor the struggles and triumphs of our fathers and mothers, we honor the struggles of all families at all times in all places.  
To properly cite this govt. registered copyrighted piece:

Originally posted 29 Jan 2010 at 
What Is Genealogy?(©)
Also titled as " Family History Is..."(©)
Brandt, John A. “Wiley J. Morris Family” a3Genealogy,  June 2007,
Attribution: a3Genealogy, .Brandt, 2007

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers


  1. I was happy to read that Jeff Corbett's article was ill-informed, full of misconception and prejudice, without anything to back up the claims but his own personal experience. I think every person's story deserves to be told, no matter how insignificant it might seem to others. Thanks for the reprint, by the way. That is as good a reason to do genealogy as any. Who, may I ask, is John Brandt?

  2. It is, for me, uncovering my very own special human journey. It is unique only to my brothers and me and now my children and my niece and nephew and my grandchildren. There is no other journey exactly like that of my family. Every one of us has unique and fascinating stories waiting to be unearthed.

  3. Taco, thanks for asking. John Brandt is my wonderful husband. He's great with words!

  4. I was interested in genealogy for the stories. It was my storyteller grandmother (she was a British trained nanny who came through Ellis island in 1915 - the Mary Poppins era) telling tales of life in the slums of Leeds, Yorkshire that got me hooked as a child. I've found Mayflower ancestors, royalty, etc. but the ordinary stories of life, struggle, and surprising coincidences are the things that have compelled me to continue on in genealogy for over 30 years.

  5. As with Heather, it's the uncovering of stories. And through blogging, I am trying to combine it with something I've always wanted to do, which is writing.

  6. That article was disconcerting for me. I had to leave 2 comments on their site; very heavily edited as they don't give you much space to express yourself. So here's my response to them:

    "When I was 5, we moved from a black to a white community.

    In 3rd grade we read aloud "Little Black Sambo", a racist children's book. My mother got that book removed from the classroom and the curriculum. In junior high, my history teacher insisted that I was a 'negro' with no history, culture or homeland. My white classmates were taught to view their heritages with pride being English, German or Scottish. The teacher wouldn't even allow me to capitalize 'negro'. In school, they taught that I was inferior with no claim to respect, dignity or self-esteem. Genealogy changed that for me. (pt1)

    My teachers in America weren't going to teach me that all of my African Ancestors were NOT slaves. Or that my 2nd great grandfather was a soldier for the Union in the American Civil war.

    Genealogy and family history research is important. It can help a child have a healthy mindset about who they are, where they fit in society, and what is expected of them. Genealogists, by digging in the archives, are unearthing stories and events of what really happened in the past. Everyday, I learn something more about myself, my family, and my country - thanks to genealogy and family history."

    I hope it makes sense in this chopped up form. :)

  7. Nice one, George. The chopped up, heavily edited version of your response is infinitely more informative and interesting to read then Jeff Corbett's original piece, so I can only imagine what the unedited response would have been like. Maybe there's a blog post in there somewhere :)

  8. Ugh, another ignorant blowhard has to share his prejudices. I agree with what your husband said and the comments written here - especially that everyone's story deserves to be told. There are so many profound benefits to be gained from doing genealogy - including a sense of history, being able to put our own lives into a broader context (which can often make our misfortunes seem puny by comparison), and the sense of humility we experience when we realize that we might not have the strength our ancestors had to face life's great challenges. Done right, genealogy is not about ignorance and ego, but about learning and humility. I wouldn't trade one of my humble farming families for a hundred royal ancestors.

  9. Giving this bloke a mention is a waste of space.

  10. To me the story here is no longer about that Jeff person (didn't read his article and I won't). The story is about John Brandt. He put into words, so eloquently, what we have all felt during our family history journey. I love everything he said and how he said it. Well done John.

  11. Jenna,
    Thanks for the kind comments. I remember my frustration in 2007 when I was trying to define the purpose of genealogy research. John jotted down some notes, and captured my true passion in a matter of minutes. I find these words to be timeless.

  12. Kathleen,

    Your husband summed it up beautifully. Exactly how I feel. I got started because of the stories my mother told as I was growing up. I continue on because it's history personalized. It's my family's journey and what they contributed to the fabric of this country whether small or great. It's the story of perseverance and that I exist and am where I am today because of them. It's my way of saying thank you to all of them, which is why it is important for me to not just know where they came from but to know them.