Most genealogy sites talk about connecting family and how great it would be to discover your great grandfather who helped build the first car or your 3rd cousin twice removed who served tea to a President. However, not all sites tell fledgling genealogists about those not-so graceful ancestors, like your grand uncle who accidentally set the local church on fire or the grandmother who was not exactly the greatest housewife, if you catch my drift. Nonetheless, do not fear! I have been there and done that! Here are some tips to help you cope with your shame.
This is the biggest obstacle a real genealogist has to overcome. Some people go into it thinking that all their ancestors were set in a box; that, however is not always the case. Everybody is different, so don’t expect the same outcomes for everyone’s lives. Just because Aunt Mary decided to become a hippie doesn’t make her a bad person! Just always remember: surprises just make your family more vibrant and interesting!
Don’t Set High Expectations
Don’t go into it thinking that all your ancestors were superheroes; some of them were in fact villains, whether you like it or not. Don’t think they all participated in some major historical event; somebody’s got to be regular. Trust me, expecting too much of your ancestors will do nothing but frustrate you and sometimes hurt your feelings. Just accept them for who they were and keep it moving!
Don’t Make Excuses
Yeah, Cousin Richard had some mental problems, so what? Sometimes, you’ll just have to accept some things as they are; don’t try to go around it sugar coat it, just take it. Don’t try to to figure it out, some things aren’t meant to be figured out, you know? I mean really, who wants to know what your cousins were thinking when they got married? Let’s move on….
Don’t Let Your New found Information Define You
This is an extremely important aspect of genealogy as a whole. Yea, don’t get me wrong, learning about your family will change your perspective and how you see certain things sometimes, but don’t let their shortcomings or failures make you think any less of yourself. You are not them, and they are not you. Be the person You (and hopefully, they would) want you to be. Billie Holiday said it best:
” Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own.”