If you don’t even know who your great-grandparents were, should you really give a hoot whether your distant ancestors were Irish, nobility, galley slaves or the 14th mistress of the king of Bobbaloo?
The answer to that question is “yes,” at least if you ask any of the millions of persons who pay big bucks to the folks in charge of the huge (and growing) ancestry research industry.
Why should anyone want to trace his/her ancestry? Let us count the possible motivations:
POSSIBLE FINANCIAL REWARDS. Banks and other money institutions sometimes print enormous lists of people, who for one reason or another have overlooked cash coming to them. If, one day, you see your name on such a list (published by your forebears in Molitania in 1359 A.D.) you will wish you possessed evidence of your bloodlines.
CONVERSATIONAL OPENINGS. If one of your social gatherings is losing its chit-chat zip, you can revive it by casually saying, “One of my Roman ancestors, Antique Prostatus III, was the chief lion-keeper during Christian sacrifices in the Colosseum.” That will get your guests’ attention, especially if one of them is an animal lover.
A MEANS OF SETTLING FAMILY ARGUMENTS. Your sister Sue insists that your great-great-great-grandmother Greta von Gogetter was a camp-follower during the Zulu Rebellions. You know better, and haven’t spoken kindly to Sue in years for her having besmirched the family history. A well-done genealogical chart could solve the argument once and for all.
BOREDOM. A couple, Tom and Sheila, have been married for 37 exciting years. One day they realize they have run out of things to do. Sheila says, “Tom, let’s see where we came from.” Tom says, “Great idea, precious. How do we do that?” And they’re off into the old/new world of ancestry.
CURIOSITY. Who started all this? Here I am in 2019, and the professors tell me that my history may have begun thousands of years ago when two aborigines, Smella and Ella, got friendly one night during the Pleistocene Era. So where did their descendants live since then? India? Mongolia? Ocala?
THE DISCOVERY OF DNA. This is a human acid, found in almost all living organisms. It carries the constituents of genealogy, the science of who we are and who our are ancestors were, no matter who and where they lived.
Research on DNA has provided a huge scientific gateway. DNA testing allows us to identify persons who have died, and (among other things) those who may have committed crimes and left DNA evidence behind them. Today, DNA ancestry researchers can work with only a small patch of saliva or human tissue. Within a short time they can pinpoint the history of the contributor.
A number of competing genealogy research organizations are now available to you and me. Some may cost us only a few hours on Google. Others will charge a fee.
As with many other persons around the globe, my sweetheart Carolina Moon of Gulfport was adopted at birth. She knows the names of her birth parents, and has long intended to learn more about them. I hope she will one day succeed. I feel likewise for all other persons longing to know where their ancestors were born, lived, wandered and died.
Maybe one day humankind will discover the exact source of the universe itself. If and when that happens, hundreds of sci-fi writers will be out of work, as will proponents of various religions.
But what if the ultimate discovery is this: the entire universe is nothing but one huge chunk of DNA? Ponder that, friends.
Meanwhile, let’s close with a couple of ancestry quotations you may already have heard.
“A man who thinks too much about his ancestors is like a potato — the best part of him is underground.” — Henry S.F. Cooper.
“I don’t have to look up my family tree, because I already know that I’m the sap.” — Fred Allen.