Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Do I want zombies in my family tree?

One day recently, as I sat reading a report at work, trying to ignore some genealogical thoughts in the back of my mind, I was hit with a wave of emotion I never expected. It was frustration, mixed with despair, but mostly, it was mourning. If I were to put it into words, it would resemble “This is pointless! Genealogy doesn’t work. No matter how hard you research, no matter how many details you learn, you’ll never succeed. You can’t bring them back.”

I was shocked. What was I thinking? I am a sane, rational person. I am not trying to bring my ancestors back from the dead. But for a minute there – and the feeling lingered – I was grieving my ancestors, wishing for them back, and not just so I could ask them questions to satisfy my curiosity.

I’m sure everyone who has ever lost someone is familiar with being hit, out of the blue, years after the fact, by the awful finality – the awful eternity - of the death of a loved one. We know they’re never coming back, but once in a while, you know they’re never coming back. 

And that, briefly, unexpectedly, was how I felt about ancestors I'd never met, people I knew only from censuses and vital records - that I wanted them "back" in my life, that I was working, desperately, to bring them back from beyond the veil. And that, of course, it was an entirely futile enterprise. 

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