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Genealogy­Your Greatest Adventure

"We were back there in history as a part of our ancestors"

Since H.G. Wells wrote his great novel, The Time Machine, men have shared his dream of a machine to journey into the past. The "Back to the Future" movies are a more recent manifestation of this dream.

Time and events in time have shaped our civilization and therefore shaped us­our hopes and aspirations, our values and customs, even our language. The blood of men and women who have long since turned to dust flows in our veins. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that "We are the children of many sires, and every drop of blood in us in its turn betrays its ancestor."

It is no wonder that the past fascinates us and that we sometimes dream of a wonderous vehicle that will take us backward in time. Unfortunately we do not have, and probably will never have, such an electronic device.

We do, however, have the words and thoughts of those who have gone before us. These, plus our own imagination, are probably the closest we will ever get to time travel, the closest we will ever get to meeting our ancestors face-to-face and experiencing the events that they did.

While the science of electronics will not help us here, the science of genealogy will. Through genealogy you can embark in your own personal time capsule on a trip back into history to meet people who have had more influence on your life than any others­your ancestors.

As you travel back into your family history, the better you get to know your forebears, the better you will get to know yourself. Through a genealogical search you can come to a much more complete understanding of who and what you are and why. The immortality of humans on earth consists of chromosomes passed from parents to child. In a sense, we were there back in history as a part of our ancestors.

The word genealogy comes from two Greek words­"Genea," meaning descent, and "logos," meaning discourse. In its narrowest sense it is the study of individuals and their relationship, wherein complete identification is established.

Every human being has a mother and a father. The heart of genealogy is merely determining as correctly as possible who the mother and father of any given person were.

It most likely began with the concept of inheritance. A primitive tribe owning all in common had no need for genealogy. Once it was determined that crowns (and other titles) or property should remain in the family, it became necessary to determine who were the members of a family.

In its broadest sense genealogy is a scientific study which contributes to and coordinates with many related fields of learning such as history, biography, geography, sociology, law, medicine, and linguistics.

In this sense, the term "family history" could more aptly be used. Family history is the focus of The Brownell Chronicle because we want to know more about our ancestors than mere names and dates. We want to know the stories of their lives, and how they were interwoven into the fabric of history.

The word "genealogy" is fast losing its stuffy association with elderly aunts, upper-class statesmen, and cobwebbed scholars. In fact, ancestor hunting has become one of the most popular hobbies, one of the greatest forms of collecting­except that instead of acquiring Indian-head pennies or first-day covers, you are collecting the historical pieces of yourself.

Genealogy has been compared to a gigantic jigsaw puzzle-a puzzle in which you yourself are one of the pieces. The fun of ancestor hunting is not just in the finding but also in the looking. A fan of detective stories said, "Trying to solve mysteries in your own family is more fun than seeing them solved in Agatha Christie or John D. MacDonald."

Genealogy is an adventure, a hunt in which you must use your ingenuity and perseverance. A hunt which may ultimately lead you halfway around the world on paper or in actuality, and yet, back to yourself and a greater realization of your own place in the finely woven fabric of the history of mankind.

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Copyright 1999 Bill Brownell

wbrownell@aol.com