Sometimes when I tell people that I love genealogy they look at me like I’m nuts. Their response is generally something along the lines of “isn’t that just a lot of facts and isn’t it incredibly boring and really, what does it have to do with today’s world?”
I’ve never felt that way about genealogy. By researching my ancestors I feel like I’m learning more about the historical forces that shaped my family and me. Every time I uncover an ancestor that I didn’t know about previously, I want to learn more about them, who they were, where they came from, what they did for a living. I find it fascinating and I welcome all of them into my family tree.
I also think genealogy is very relevant in today’s world. With so much talk going on about immigration, genealogy is a way to remember that, unless you are a Native American, we all are descended from immigrants to this country.
Because of that fact I’ve always thought that the folks who are most vociferous about immigration should be more thoughtful about what they are saying and should know about their own history before they start criticizing how/when others got here.
So, I was fascinated this morning when I read the following article from CNN about something called “resistance genealogy”. https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/24/us/immigration-resistance-genealogy-jennifer-mendelsohn-trnd/index.html Apparently, Jennifer Mendlesohn, who is a journalist and “passionate genealogist”, got tired of listening to politicians and pundits talk about all of the problems of immigration without having any sense of history or understanding of their own background.
When she heard one person say people shouldn’t come into this country with “low skills…not understanding the language” Ms. Mendlesohn did some quick genealogy research. Turns out the 3x great-grandmother of that person was in the United States for 41 years and only spoke German. She has discovered similar contradictions in other individuals with a strong anti-immigration perspective.
Is this just another example of political “sniping”? Perhaps. But, as the CNN article says, research of this type “shows how universal immigration is in so many American stories” and that understanding is a good thing.
If we can all see and celebrate the difficult stories that almost all immigrants to this country have experienced in one form or another, it might help all of us realize that today’s immigrants are really no different from our ancestors. That is at least one point of commonality in today’s divided world and it might lead us to recognize others. That would be a positive change.
So, is genealogy still irrelevant?