At Play In The Archive
“Skeptics often distrust the motivations of genealogists. Isn’t this obsession with ancestry just self-obsession? Isn’t it just another narcissistic pastime, sort of a “six degrees of separation” game in which one’s own name takes the hallowed central sport usually reserved for Kevin Bacon? … Common sense and the math of genealogy say no. Once one reaches back past, say, one’s grandparents’ generation, there are just too many ancestors for anyone to feel a seriously intimate connection. Consider the generation before your grandfather — there are sixteen people involved there. And the rules of exponents reveal that this number just keeps getting bigger and bigger — yes, exponentially — with each generation, eventually resulting in thousands, then millions of ancestors. When you go way back, say, five thousand to fifteen thousand years ago, you hit what genetic researchers call the “identical ancestors point,” which basically means this: if you look back far enough, we’re all cousins. If nothing else, this provides some long-sought scientific backup for the conceptual framework of The Patty Duke Show. If this is narcissism, then it’s a form of self-love that extends to the whole human race.”
— Buzzy Jackson, Shaking the Family Tree: Blue Bloods, Black Sheep, and Other Obsessions of an Accidental Genealogist
This blog is rather me-centric, but that’s only because I couldn’t figure out a better way to organize it. I have a short attention span, and I’m not a genealogy authority of any kind, so it seemed safest to go with a personal pastiche of Panchoness rather than get too formal about it.
Except it’s not all about me. What really drives this blog is not a desire to make myself more important, but rather to explore the idea that in the great sweep of history, I’m not very important at all. My mistakes, viewed through the long lens of family history, are not so big after all, and my triumphs — when compared with saving the free world like my veteran uncles, or emigrating to a new country like my great-great-grandparents — are also not so very amazing. The more I get to know the history of my People, the more grateful I am for everyone who got me to the Thanksgiving table today.
(Well, technically tomorrow. Today is ironing, polishing, table-setting, sweeping, and cooking day, as I make ready for the crowd of 17 coming to our feast of gratitude tomorrow. Among that total are eight hollow-legged young men in their early 20’s, so I’ve laid in plenty of extra protein. One turkey just isn’t going to cut it with this bunch.)
Speaking of people for whom I am thankful, November 26, 1891 is also the birthday of great-grandma Margaret Spielmann Lessiack, a woman I did not have the pleasure of knowing in life, but whose pictures and papers and artifacts have provided me countless hours of inspiration for this blog. I’ve written many, many posts about her and the rest of my Spielmann people, and there are many more picture and posts to come. Here are some of my favorite pictures of her thus far.
I’m thankful for so many things this year. You, my blogging People are high on that list. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. May you all be as happy as my great-grandma Margaret looks in this picture.