Deeper Roots Genealogy

~ Discovering Your Family's Past To Shape Your Future ~

my revolution in historical affairs

I dutifully learned all the names and dates and places that one should in social science and history classes, passed the AP tests, and promptly forgot it all.  Why?  Because it mattered in the strategic sense, but it was just a bunch of names.

Until I started genealogy research. Suddenly I realized that academics have somehow taken the most fascinating things on the planet – people and their antics – and sucked the life out of them, leaving virtually nothing the average person would remember for longer than it takes to pass a test. But here’s the thing – there were REAL PEOPLE making that history!  In fact, they are YOUR people and MY people!  Why don’t we hear about the things that help us think of them as real people, with attitudes, foibles, and personality?  I bet a lot of people would recall more history (and perhaps not be doomed to repeat it?) if we changed the approach.  (I know some good history teachers who do try to bring history to life.)

  • one Indian chief who fought against George Washington described him as “the particular favorite of Heaven, and who can never die in battle.”
  • a World War 1 adage said you should never light 3 cigarettes with a single match – the first will catch the enemy’s eye, the second he’ll use to set his sights, on the third he’ll pull the trigger (smoking can kill you!)
  • Calvin Coolidge’s father made only $1500 a year but was thrifty enough to save $25,000 over his lifetime (that’s like making $65K/year and saving over $1 million!)
  • When James Mattock, a Puritan in Boston, refused to sleep with his wife for 2 years, she apparently took her marital issue to the congregation of the First Church of Boston, which discussed the situation openly and expelled him for his lack of affections (so much for the concept of prudish Puritans)
  • Ludwig von Beethoven requested some wine while on his deathbed.  When it was slow in coming, he said, as his last words, “Pity, pity – too late!” (quite calm for a massive FAIL on your dying request)
  • Great Britain’s King George III, against whom the American colonists rebelled, adopted “newborn Prince Octavius,” who was actually a pillow (need I say more?)
How many different explanations of this situation can you come up with?

How many different explanations of this situation can you come up with?

That is why I love genealogy – finding people’s ancestors, and going beyond the name and date and place.  The historic events they shaped or played a role in, the social issues of the day, how they lived, and what their neighborhood was like, even their occupation…all these made our ancestors who they were. Knowing these things about them help us (their descendants) feel like they really are part of the family.

examples above are from the following books, in order: The Bulletproof George Washington by David Barton, Frightful First World War by Terry Deary, Legends, Lies and Cherished Myths of American History by Richard Shenkman, Extraordinary Endings of Practically Everything and Everybody by Charles Panati, and Cruel Kings and Mean Queens by Terry Deary

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One comment on “my revolution in historical affairs

  1. Laura Aanenson
    11 February 14

    Way to put the hysterical in History! Loved the way you personalized these stories; they may stick with me longer this way. :o)

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