06 July 2016

Ancestor Investigations Performed Here

This curious sign above the side-by-side computer stations along the wall nearest the bookshelves that have been dedicated to genealogical study and reference materials caught my eye. It would be interesting to measure the extent of interest in ancestry among people in various societies: immigrant countries like Australia, Canada, USA, South Africa, as well as most of Latin America would seem to have the most urgent motivation to learn about family lines before, during and since the moment of immigration. But perhaps even among non-immigrant countries there are demographic patterns in the study of one's ancestors; for example, it could be keenest among those with landed property or those poor in cash, but rich in ancestry, noble or ignoble.
click for full-size image: "Ancestor Investigations Performed Here" at library

There are several building materials available for making meaning of one's life, the aspirations projected for one's children, and the longings for continuity to one's ancestors. One's life meaning can come from achievements, worldly and economic on the one hand, or more intangible markers on the other hand. One's purpose can come from one's occupations and preoccupations, whether they are gainfully paid and require vocational training, or whether they are avocational in nature. One's significance and consequence can derive in peer respect given and received, or rooted instead separate to peer approval or disapproval, governed and estimated instead by other measurements attained. One's direction in life can come by benchmarking one's peers or one's (extended) family members to show one's position relative to theirs: adhering to the precedents or on the contrary purposefully not conforming to those patterns.

Looking at the many journals, newsletters, reference books of ships' passengers, marriages, deaths, census and church records, in principle all names since record keeping began (and earlier still when the reference book brings data from overseas sources before that) will appear in one or more of these publications. So one should be able to identify and trace all appearances of a given soul from first instance to final disposition. And by this same logic, those of us alive today, will be recorded in various forms so that future generations may discover our presence in publication form the same way.

While there is hardly a crowd of hobbyist or professional researcher filling the space of this specialized treasury of names and dates, still there are many who do have some degree of interest in one or more lines of their own families' trajectories that intersects with the living descendants contemporary to the genealogist herself or himself. These quiet shelves hold the answers to many peoples wonderings about who they are, who they could be, how their lives measure up to those before (and by implication, too, measuring up to those who will follow in turn).

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