Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Genealogy Brings a Heap of Information, and a Lot of Doubt

I've been spending some time doing something I thought I would never do: I've been looking up our family's genealogy online. Not that I think it has a whole lot of usefulness; I realize that in Bible times, they kept genealogies to prove what kind of tribe they belonged to and whether or not their ancestry could match the prophecies regarding the coming Messiah. But when the Messiah had come, it was no longer useful; even for those who had rejected Him, the temple was destroyed and genealogical records no longer existed. So usefulness is a done deal for the most part in that regard.
Nevertheless, I've been wondering about my genealogy. Not having enough information to go on for my side so far, I've been researching Gary's. I'm amazed at just how much information I can find on the internet. I can sit here and get an amazing amount of information just at the click of a button, when not too many years ago, it would have taken traveling overseas, looking in church yards, church records, courthouses, and all sorts of frail old documents or dark and misty microfiche. The information available so readily today is because of so many who did that very thing.
I expected (especially when I someday do our family's side) to find any variety of crazy and colorful characters, criminals, pirates, who-knows what. I expected to find maybe a third cousin of a president or statesman. But the first one that I uncovered, so to speak, was very much a surprise, perhaps because he was one of those I would have sought to be related to. (Remember this is not my genealogy, but Gary's.) I found in one of the first days I was researching that my kids are supposedly descended from Martin Luther. Well. I looked at what information I could find on his daughter who supposedly married one of our ancestors, but there was only one place where there's any indication that they were married. I highly suspect it to be a faulty link. The other funny thing about it before I looked at that was that this line of ancestry came through my mother-in-law...who I never really got along with. So it occurred to me that I could expect that any of us could have been descended from someone like Martin Luther, but somehow it was the oddest twist to think that it would have been my mother-in-law. That at least showed that I hadn't made up that story, because if I had, it wouldn't have wound up that way.
The other thing I find strange with this genealogy is that there are no questionable characters...no horse thieves, no pirates, nothing with a glint of mischief. It was kind of disappointing, to tell the truth. Not only no questionable characters, but I'm wondering if everyone is descended from a whole lot of knights, lords, barons. Is that true, or is Gary just a very regal type of guy? I know he's a nice guy, and why I would think he would be descended from at least some mischief makers, or that he wouldn't have so many really high-level players, I don't know. I think we're pretty average people, both of us.
I wonder about the reality of these genealogies. I suppose they're a good place to start. They might even be a pretty nice inspiration to bring the study of medieval times to life, with the thought that we had some knights weighted down with armor riding around on horses, and all of that...it does make history a bit more intriguing. And it gives a name to start with, to see whether there's actually any documentation behind it. A person doesn't have to be such a detective to even come up with the initial clues of ancestry. But I have far more names from doing this in my spare time at home in the last couple of weeks than I could have come up with on my own in a lifetime of travel, if I had done this 20 years ago. It's a nice set of documentation for casual family interest, but not reliable enough to point to and share with everyone (though I have a funny story to tell about finding Luther in it...ha! As soon as I mentioned to Tim that it appeared we were descended from Luther, he immediately called Katie, who immediately put it up as her facebook status. Now it looks less credible...ha...and more credible, I might add, that Gary, Katie and Tim have fairly recent ancestors in common with no less than Hillary Clinton. Talk about the swing of a pendulum! Ha! And please remember, I so far have escaped such a notable affiliation!).
So what is it that makes everyone feel that they have to be related to someone "important"? We are someone important, each one of us, in and of ourselves. Jesus died on the cross for all of us. Being related to a president, a theologian, a knight, a duke, a lord, a king...what would it matter? Who cares? It doesn't make us one whit more important than we were before I researched it. Our importance is all in Christ. What we do with Him is what matters most of all, whether we accept His gift of salvation, or we don't. Whether we tell others about Him, or keep Him to ourselves. Whether we live in obedience to Him, or go our own way. Who cares if we had some genes like those of someone who made it big 1,000 years ago? I have brothers and cousins and aunts and uncles who've made it a lot bigger than I ever have in the world. I've "made it bigger" than any of them, though, in heaven, you might say. So I don't envy them, I don't resent them, I don't need everyone to know I'm related to them. I want to drag them along with me to heaven when I go, if only I knew how! It's a matter of prayer.
What prompted me to do this then? I think I wanted to know the nationalities, the history of my children, and I kind of hoped that some of the glint of the mischief in their eyes came from Gary's side as much as mine. Who knows, maybe it did, and someone has just done a very big job of cleaning it up. What a shame! It might have made it quite a bit more interesting...and convincing...to leave it in.

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