A Day In The Life Of…………………………

My dog Chip knows how to spend a cold and snowy winter day. Here he is wrapped up in a throw quilt my wife made for me. He got good use of it all day.

My dog Chip knows how to spend a cold and snowy winter day. Here he is wrapped up in a throw quilt my wife made for me. He got good use of it all day.

The Last few days have brought cold weather with temperatures falling below zero. Yesterday we got about eight inches of snow with blowing wind. These conditions have the effect of making the snow harder to deal with and just making it feel colder outside. So I have spent the last few days inside doing things that I enjoy. This has gotten me to thinking about what would a future descendant learn about me if they could observe my day. I mean besides that I ate Maypo for breakfast and a tuna fish sandwich for lunch. Well, they would learn that I overindulge my dog, and I like to watch birds on my birdfeeder. If they take a look around they would see bookshelves full of books read, so they would know I like to read. They will see pictures of family and mementos of times and places that have meaning for me. They would even see that I like to go to online auction sites. But would they really know me and be able to tell my story?

Birdfeeder right outside my kitchen window. I get visitors all day long.

Birdfeeder right outside my kitchen window. I get visitors all day long.

People are a complex mixture of thoughts, emotions, likes, and dislikes. If we were to pick out a stranger and follow them for a complete day while studying their every action and noting their every utterance, we still would not know that person. The same would hold true if we did it for a week, a month or even a year. Certainly we would know them better, but I believe not even close to complete. Years of living together does not bring understanding either. Look at the many examples we know of siblings, not getting along or parents and children are not getting along because of a lack of understanding.

In our genealogy endeavors, we try to break down that barrier of just adding dates of births, marriages, and deaths. We try to do better than a list of children born and perhaps an occupation or residence. We want to know our ancestor’s story and what they were like as people. So we dig and hunt in records and newspapers to find hints that may let us know who they truly were. Sometimes we are lucky, and we find an insight into our ancestor. This can take hours of research and putting these elusive puzzle pieces in the right places. Then we tell their stories. We tell them with pride, shame, and sometimes with amusement. I have read about slave owners and abolitionist. Men or women who abandon their families. Ancestors who worked on the family farm or gave up everything to save the family business. Others who ended up in prison or were in law enforcement. Indian fighters and Quakers. Ancestors who were patriots or loyalist in the Revolutionary War. They were surprised that their ancestor fought for the North or the South in the Civil War. But in truth we know very little about them. Pieces of their puzzle will always be missing and misunderstood.

The best we can ever hope for is to tell the facts as we know them and make the best guesses we can about them. But always being mindful of the fact that we are at best only making guesses about who they are and why they took certain actions or inactions. Beyond the facts, we must be honest with ourselves and others when we stray and start making conclusions about them. But with all this being said that for me is one of the truly fun aspects of family history. Telling their stories is what helps bring them to life for future generations, even if only a shadow of the real person.

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36 Responses to A Day In The Life Of…………………………

  1. Bob & Sandi McGinnis says:

    Loved the pics, but your story was absolutely right on, terrific.
    Bob (probably a cousin through a Fish or Coggeshall lines)

  2. Amy says:

    I agree—it is important to do our best to imagine who they were, and it is also important to accept that we never will really know for sure. I know I project my own values and sensibilities and modern tendencies into what I imagine of my ancestors, and I sometimes worry that I am just creating something that has no basis in reality, but it’s the best we can do. And I suppose as long as we couch everything in language that makes it clear what we don’t really know, no harm and only good is done. Great post!

    • chmjr2 says:

      I have said it before everyone should read your blog to see how a person’s history should be done. I agree with you about how we should use the language in telling their story. The danger is not that we deliberately mislead in our conclusions but that we fool ourselves.

      • Amy says:

        Thank you! I find that I learn so much from everyone who shares their thoughts and their research. It’s quite remarkable.

        Sometimes I do feel that these people who died long before I was alive inhabit me in some way. I think we all just try to do them the honor of remembering their lives, with the good and the bad.

      • chmjr2 says:

        I agree that we try to honor them by telling their story. I see to many forgotten and lost in flea markets and estate sales.

  3. I believe the best way to be remembered for who we are is to write our story for others to read. The ancestors I know the best left notes, quotes, or letters. Those records are glimpses into their lives. With our technology driven society now and everything in print, doing this is a challenge.

    • chmjr2 says:

      It was Churchill who said something about history will be kind to him, as he intends to write it. So you and he are of the same mind. I do agree it is one of the best ways to have our story known.

  4. You are right on the mark about the way in which we all do our best to reconstruct some semblance of what our ancestors were like. Even family interviews do not present the complete picture because one person can present a different facet of themselves to each family member. As said here the written records left to us give more insight. This is why even things like greeting cards and casual notes give us a more direct access to who they were. Another observation we can bring to the presentation are the patterns of behavior that continue within a family generation after generation. I have found that sometimes official records confirm what observation and consideration bring to the fore. For example, there can be an ancestor who frequently move from one place to another as evidenced by the census records and city directories. Their children in turn did not follow a pattern of living in one community for long. Family retellings of the financial difficulties or drinking problems that family had from one generation to the next provide some insight into the reason for the frequent moves. Yet people from within the same family could have been very gracious during their good times and had other relatives stay over or visit often. There might be letters or cards from those times. So a more complex picture emerges.

    I think our role is to be the collector of the information as well as the organizer. We present it complete with our impressions and reflections on the material knowing that family history is always a work in progress and at some point even newer material and developments may be revealed.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments. You made some excellent points. I really agree with you about finding patterns from generation to generation. I have seen it in my own family. In one line a education pattern was very strong. It started with a farmer in Maine who sent all his children to school even the females in the mid 1800s. While all around him his neighbor’s (per the census) children worked on the family farms once they were in their early teens. This pattern continued in my family up to this very day.

  5. Excellent post, Charles. Something every family history researcher needs to take into consideration.

  6. heneker52 says:

    omg so cute, this little darling looks warm and toasty, should come to South Australia where we are expecting 39-40 deg C for next week, that will warm him up….love this pic

  7. pastsmith says:

    Well said, enjoyed your post. Great pics too!

  8. bookworkgirl says:

    Really enjoyed this post. I am trying to find stories but still in the name and date phase. At a standstill right now.

  9. Su Leslie says:

    Reblogged this on Shaking the tree and commented:
    Great, thoughtful piece by Charles at Moore Genealogy, with interesting comments too. I was going to add mine, but decided to reblog. Well worth reading.

  10. mandorac says:

    Firstly, great pics! Love how vivid the cardinal looks.

    This topic was full of great insight about our ancestors and their stories and not guessing because, truthfully, we’ll never know who they really were. I found that my 3rd-great-GF apparently abandoned a wife and young child in 1824, then went on to marry my 3rd-great-GM nearly 10 years later. I have no idea, of course, what happened then or who they were as people. I always remind myself of that if I find something that I think is questionable and I leave judgment at the doorstep.

    Thanks for sharing!

  11. Are you me? 🙂 I spent my day in much the same way, except for the fact that we have a 95 pound Husky who thinks he’s a lap dog! I’m tired of the snow (and the thick layer of ice underneath) and stood at my kitchen table watching the red-headed woodpecker who’s just lately started to visit the bird feeder. The walls of my house are also lined with books and everyone knows me as a “bookworm”. You’ve done a fine job of putting into simple terms what we’re trying to do while researching our families’ histories. Great job! I’m glad that I found your blog. I also have Moore ancestors, but then, doesn’t everyone? 😉

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thanks so much for reading my blog and your comments. And yes the Moore family is everywhere. I just can’t find my Moore family. They must be out there somewhere. Also we do seem to be somewhat alike. So maybe it is the Moore connection………. 🙂

  12. Mom says:

    It took me a good while to get past the photo with the delightful snuggling doggy. But, I’m glad I got a grip and read the post too! I’m glad you rebloged it to share 🙂 And the pup!

  13. Jim McKeever says:

    Charles, this is great … it’s rare, often downright impossible, to truly know someone. Grandparents, parents, siblings, friends, lovers — I think everyone keeps at least a few things unsaid, for any number of reasons. Maybe the reasons are sound, maybe not. Who knows, right? With your blog, however, you’re providing more history to descendants than most people get. Your posts will be cherished, and looked at time and again. That’s the beauty of this blog business. You can say as much — or as little — about yourself as you wish. In my case, I probably say too much. But to me it’s worth the risk. In my Word documents file on my computer, I have a folder titled, “Secrets.” It’s empty. I chuckle at the prospect of someone finding that some day and opening it up with more than a little trepidation or anticipation … and I’d love to see their facial expression when they realize there’s nothing there! Jim

  14. Spyro says:

    Your post reminds me that I need to keep context in mind, or at least try to understand it or find it. I think, in place of certainty or full knowledge, we need to be respectful. Thank you for reminding me.

    • chmjr2 says:

      I think the main thing we all should remember is that we humans are complex and we can never fully understand each other. Also when events are many years gone by we will never be able to get the proper context.

  15. Amen. We can write stories now about the recently departed and about the living so future generations will have an inkling of what their ancestors were like. Too bad the Civil War soldier and the slave didn’t have the perspective and resources to do the same.

    • chmjr2 says:

      I agree. However I have seen many letters from the Civil War period that give great insight into the times and the letter writer. I wish I had a few that my ancestors wrote.

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