My theme for the Family History through the Alphabet is the Attributes we need as family historians: the skills, experience and talents we need to bring to our research. We’re on the slippery slope near the alphabet’s end as we look at the U attributes.
U is UNIQUE: It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that while our families have universal traits, each one is unique. We also talk about our “family tree” as if it’s generic to many people whereas in fact, each individual shares a particular family ancestry only with their siblings, as unique as a snowflake. Branches of their ancestry may be shared with many others but our “tree” is unique.
U is for UNDERSTANDING: Closely related to empathy when we try to understand our families’ responses and behaviours and not judge them by 21st century values and mores.
Understanding our families within their time frame and the place they lived is important if we’re to reach a balanced perspective on their lives.
U is for UNIVERSAL in two senses: Our ancestors were very human and their frailties and foibles are universal to human-kind. We’re universal also in our concern for their experiences and universal in our desire as family historians to know more about them.
U is for UBIQUITOUS: The traces of our families are ubiquitous from graveyards to churches to archives. It follows as night follows day that we too are ubiquitous as we hunt down those much desired clues and stories.
U is for UNIFORM: As we work through our research we try to maintain a consistent approach in the details and rigour we apply to our search, as well as how we report on family stories.
U is not always UNIFORM: We talk about our families and family trees as if they follow a neat family structure universally uniform across each family. In fact most families have tree anomalies: children adopted out or in; same sex relationships known or hinted at; divorces; deceased spouses (often more than one); and melded families.
In short our families can be messy and so writing their story can be challenging.
If you haven’t read the post, R is for Rhizome, by guest blogger Dr Chad Habel, on the Seeking Susan~Meeting Marie~Finding Family blog, can I recommend you pop over and have a look. Chad’s proposal that a rhizome rather than a tree is a more apt descriptor for our messy families. I certainly like the tree image better, but the rhizome concept works better. On the other hand, a field of irises or heliconias….
What U attributes do you think we need as family historians?
Images from Microsoft Clipart.