Your Great Grandparents Were People, Too

Grandparents having a picnic with grandchildrenIt can be easy to give in to the impulse to idealize your ancestors. Everyone wants to think that their grandparents, great grandparents, or great great grandparents were perfectly sweet and decent people. This is especially true when you see a photo of your great grandmother doing something like working in her flower garden, or a photo of your great great grandfather surrounded by his siblings. However, genealogists need to keep in mind that these ancestors were real people. The events in their lives might not have gone exactly as you may have expected.

Learning more about your grandparents and great grandparents can be exciting. It can also be a way to accidentally uncover some skeletons that had been lurking in the family closet. Genealogists need to be prepared to accept the truth about their family, whatever it turns out to be. You don’t necessary have to like the truth you find. However, you shouldn’t ignore it, or give in to the urge to rewrite history into something that you consider to be a story that reflects more favorably on your family. Part of the purpose of genealogy research is to discover what is true about your ancestors.

Your grandparents were young once. They may have been as impetuous, passionate, emotional, or as impulsive as any young person today. Do not assume that an ancestor who was alive in Victorian times automatically was the picture of propriety. You may come across an ancestor who was born to parents who were not married to each other. You might find out that your great great grandmother was several months pregnant when she married your great great grandfather. It is entirely possible to learn that one or more of your ancestors had children with a person who was not his or her spouse. You may have ancestors who were involved in criminal activities. No matter what you find, you are learning more about who your grandparents and great grandparents really were, which is part of the reason why you got into genealogy in the first place.

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