Friday, October 1, 2010

History and Genealogy

I like history! I know that there are others out there like me, but most people do not care much about history, don't like it or don't understand it. To some it is boring to others it is just not cool. After all, pop culture and history are really on opposite ends of the cultural spectrum. Our society is totally enthralled with the latest cultural phenomenon . . . whatever that might be. Check out the Yahoo front page and other places on the web and you will find lots of space devoted to popular culture, celebrities, sports, gossip (you might even find some actual news) but if you want history, you need to go find it.

That is OK; I don't really mind but it is frustrating when I hear politicians and pundits using American's lack of historic knowledge about the world and their own country to create a false history, instill fear and generally mislead the public. I suppose that is really the fault of the public for not knowing more about themselves or their past. Someone is always going to "take back or restore" something (such as the country) or interpret the constitution in some way or another. The so-called "Tea-Party" movement is a good example of a some-what misguided group. Frankly, most of these folks don't have a clue. Why, because the don't understand their own history.

So for me, knowing history helps me understand what goes on in the world today. It informs me as to why things are the way they are but I also enjoy the subject itself. In other words I like history for histories sake. If you are a history buff, then naturally, you will want to know about your own family history. To place your ancestors in historical context is about a close as you will ever get to being in their shoes. Initially, my knowledge about my own family history only extended back a few generations. These were the German, Swiss and Norwegian ancestors that settled in southern Wisconsin in the second half of the 19th Century. What I knew about them was information handed down from my parents or other relatives. Yet, I really wanted more.

The Internet was my salvation. Finally, a readily accessible central clearing house of information. There may be no substitution for old-fashioned genealogy research . . spending time at county courthouses and libraries . . . but the Internet is coming close and soon will eclipse those old forms of research (perhaps it has already). For me, it unlocked the door and I stepped into a whole new world, one the stretched all the way back to Colonial American.

Was Thomas Holcombe on the Ship Mary and John
that arrived in the New World in 1630? Maybe.
My American history starts with Thomas Holcombe who sailed to New England sometime between 1630 and 1633. When I was younger, I always liked World History more then American History. Perhaps because it was just so much older and more diverse. Now, however, I find myself increasingly interested in my own countries past. Being able to trace ancestors back to the very beginning of settlement (European beginnings, that is), has really peaked my interest. It is easy to relate to all of the various events, wars, expansion, etc. that have happened in North America over the last 400 years. I can place family members at many of those events and that makes it very real.

I encourage everyone to try and find out about their family history, it will help them understand a little more about their own existence but also a great deal more. Perhaps genealogy can lead us to a better understanding of not only our family history but history in general.

Additional Reading:
Genealogy and the Internet
History Page Added - More Stuff
Two Years of Blogging about Genealogy

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to the Geneabloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    Author of "Back to the Homeplace"
    and "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"