The People of Pancho

At Play In The Archive

A Happy Aside

The thing that fascinates me most about genealogy is the realization that I am who I am today because of decisions made by and events that happened to my ancestors. We like to think that we’re the masters of our own destinies — and, to be sure, we bear the responsibility for making the best of things once we’re here — but where we begin the journey is entirely up to the people who came before us. Why am I here and not there? Why do I have this and not that? What if my 12th great-grandfather had taken an arrow to the heart instead of to the foot in battle, or my 10th great-grandmother had become a nun rather than a wife? One change somewhere along the line, and suddenly we might not exist, or we might be a completely different nationality, or we might be driving a Lada rather than a Ford, or making Inkulal Firfir for breakfast instead of plain old scrambled eggs.

Megan Smolenyak (squared), a giant in the field of genealogy with a wonderful blog, does a particularly great job of illustrating the idea that the decisions of our ancestors form who we become. Take five and watch her explain how Pharrell Williams almost wasn’t.

And, because I get happy every time I see these pictures, here are two of my People wearing some serious Pharrell hats, back when they were cool the first time around.

Date and photograph unknown. The back of the photo says, "LS happy at West Point."

Date and photographer unknown. The back of the photo says, “LS happy at West Point.”

My great-grandpa Leo in 1918. Photographer unknown.

My great-grandpa Leo in 1918. Photographer unknown.

What decisions are we making today that will affect the destiny our descendants? It’s impossible to tell, but I do know one thing. We can all do a better job of labeling our pictures and other artifacts. Seriously, People, do your descendants a favor and go make a few notes about something precious right now. Go on, do it, and have a happy Tuesday.

5 comments on “A Happy Aside

  1. Amy
    October 29, 2014

    Thanks for posting this. I will admit I’ve never heard of Pharell nor his song, but the video was fascinating! I also often think about that what ifs—what if my ancestors had not left Europe? What if my grandfather’s cousins had not lived on the same street where my grandmother lived so that my grandparents would meet? And so on…


  2. theeditorsjournal
    October 29, 2014

    Lol! One thing I know future generations won’t have a problem with is pictures and text from this generation! They might instead ask ‘Do we really need to know that they had eggs everyday complete with multiple pics of said eggs?’


    • Pancho
      October 29, 2014

      With the general stuff, yes, (oh, my, yes!) but with the personal family artifacts, future generations need all the help they can get. Like Buzzy Jackson says, “Time is the medium in which a genealogist’s work exists. Time is also the enemy. With every day that passes, another memory fades. With every year, a lost connection. Have you ever seen a box of old letters in an attic or an antiques store? Time made them mysterious. What used to be a snapshot of someone’s uncle Harold is no, after years of forgetfulness and few moves from state to state, just a sepia-toned portrait of an anonymous man standing in front of an anonymous house. Once upon a time, that photograph was a token of love and remembrance. Now it’s just an unidentified relic.” — Shaking the Family Tree: Blue Bloods, Black Sheep, and Other Obsessions of an Accidental Genealogist

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jana Last
    October 31, 2014


    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today’s Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!


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This entry was posted on October 28, 2014 by in Asides, Lessiack People, Spielmann People and tagged , , .
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