One of the joys of genealogy is finding information about your ancestors that provides insight into their lives and personalities. Letters, documents and other stories written by or about them are treasured discoveries. We are elated when we find them. We read them to other family members and friends. We often give them higher praise than the straight “A” report cards that our children bring home.
Really? Praise them higher than our child’s achievements?
Well, yes at times we do. Not consciously but because we know our kids and expect big things from them. We don’t know almost all of our ancestors and finding any story about them has a cache of perceived value in our ancestrally infected minds.
How do we feel when we find good reputationally challenged stories about our ancestors?
In many cases, their indiscretions don’t run ninety degrees to societal laws and values, but at times we find some real rotters.
Recently, I found information about one of my medieval ancestors in an old scholarly book that described him as being an abomination to the human race, a perversity in the role of a husband and father and tyrant to his people.… Hmmm… No warm fuzzies there.
I like finding information about ancestors who have infractions with the law because there are records about them but am less enthralled with those that were despots.
Other ancestral quests have uncovered a medieval grandmother who murdered her husband and a number of her children along with one of her sisters. The descriptions of their murders is so unpleasant, I won’t include additional reference to them.
We commonly find male ancestors who killed their father, brother(s), cousins and friends to obtain the throne or a leadership position. They certainly lived in different times than we have enjoyed for the past few centuries in most of the western world.
Once again we are happy that information exists about our ancestors but wish that they hadn’t been such rotters.
I often pause before sharing information about our more infamous ancestors with our grandchildren. They certainly provide more stories in our ancestral tree than the ‘normal’ folks but a full diet of their tales of debauchery and murder is a plate best served in extreme moderation.
How did our grandmothers survive their arranged marriages to these villains? What factors were involved to allow any of the children to grow into peaceful, pleasant and productive people? Many of them did. Some of them became Saints, even without all of the accompanying politics.
Fortunately, with all of the unpleasantness comes stories of wonderful folks, living their lives as best they could and at the same time being shining examples of goodness in their communities.
Sometimes sweet and sour items on the menu are the finest meal. The same it true in the weave in our ancestral tapestry.
Posted 30 January 2015 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog