Thebastidge: Family history
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    Wednesday, July 11, 2007

    Family history

    As a man who has never met my own father, I must admit that I am a bit fascinated by families with long traditions and continuity.

    The idea of the ancestral manse, complete with library of dusty, boring old tomes of geneology and ancestor's accomplishments. Stuff you wouldn't read very often, but that the new daughter-in-law marrying into the family might take down during yearly spring cleaning, blow the dust off of, and ask you questions about. Something that great-grandkids might poke into on a rainy day, and find just-so stories to inspire them. All of this piques a certain romanticism in my soul.

    My own family, even on my mother's side, has lost a lot of their history, though some has been salvaged by my dear, departing uncle. (Some gallows humour there. I'm certainly going to miss the guy, some day far too soon.)

    But you, dear reader, now have an opportunity to start contributing to that dusty library.

    10 Comments:

    Blogger billo said...

    Interesting post, Larry.
    Over here there is an incredible amount of interest in genealogy-perhaps reflecting, in part, this concern about the lack of continuity that you mention. (Hannah Arendt's 'Between Past and Future' is excellent on this)

    In Pakistan (in some places) there are still 'mirasis' (record keepers) who sing the stories of the prominent members of long-past generations, thus presrving something of their memory.

    12:45 PM  
    Blogger Larry said...

    Many Americans have this problem- immigrating before regular records were kept, sometimes the immigrant themselves being illiterate, or illiterate in English at least,and not being surround by the folk tales and memories of inter-related village familes in an unbroken line for many generations of inter-marriage and cultural reinforcement, we've lost a lot.

    It's also noticable in our Black families, having been in many cases forcibly removed from their origins and having their culture ruthless suppressed, basic human rights such as the institution of marriage being removed from them.

    4:55 PM  
    Blogger billo said...

    I think you're right but I don't see it just as a "problem". Surely part of the dynamism, the great forward movement/dreaming, of America was in shedding this baggage that Europe kept with it.
    And let's remember Larkin: parents: they fuck you up!

    What you say about immigrants is really the story of the poor everywhere, isn't it? i.e they do't have a story, or are not "surrounded by them". But let's also remember that America has its great storytellers (heard an interview with an American musician, Ry something , saying that music is the last bridge between us and the past.

    I think there are two extremes here: a suffocation by the weight of the past, and a weightless irrelevance that arises from having no relation to those who came before us (I know I keep on plugging this book, but Daniel Bell's cultural Contradictions is a must read).

    btw, there was a fascinating account of the "American woodsman" as the future of us all (I think I've got it on my blog somewhere). In some sense, we're all like gamblers now-the last throw of the dice doesn't matter. let's write it off..all that matters is what happens *now*...

    2:11 AM  
    Blogger Larry said...

    "the great forward movement/dreaming, of America was in shedding this baggage that Europe kept with it."

    A very good point, and one that I have made in other contexts. I don't think one has to completely lose all history to have progress; quite the contrary, that it is only useful to discard the past up to a point, then one must redisccover it all over again.

    12:48 PM  
    Blogger billo said...

    Hey, Larry, this is why our conversations always come to an end!... you have too much of the old world politeness about you for me to get worked up about (even when I disagree with you).

    Was listening to a great Studs Terkel interview on music (Caruso, Dylan etc) which touches on this idea of continuity. Btw, do you know of any site that has recordings of his selection of folk music?

    4:04 AM  
    Blogger Larry said...

    Aye, Billo- you have too much integrity for me to be angry at you...

    3:19 PM  
    Blogger Lil said...

    I have the genealogy of my father's side of the family going back to the 1820's in Norway, but I know nothing of my mother's side previous to her mother because my great-grandmother died in 1934 when her eldest was only 6 (and all the kids were stuck in foster care, with little contact with their father). But lots of crazy great (and sometimes tragic) stories from both sides for the last couple of generations.

    The link you gave was neat...I bought a book, many years ago, called "Grandmother Remembers" which is a fill-in-the-blank kind of thing for a grandmother to write for her descendants. I gave it to my mom and asked her to write it out for my kids, and she never did. *sigh* But I sure don't want my descendants reading my handwritten diaries! Not without some editing, anyway.

    12:17 AM  
    Blogger Spungen said...

    Larry, I don't understand your use of the link. It appears to be one of those places that takes your information and helps you write your story. Have you contracted for one of these?

    Coincidentally, my husband and I had a conversation about this same topic recently. Neither of us know the names of all our grandparents or much about them. I was telling him how I was jealous of people who have lots of old framed family photos hanging on their walls. Hell, framed family photos period. Our family photos (meaning, mine) are all piled together in one old box. It says "Smirnoff Vodka" on the side.

    9:21 PM  
    Blogger Chris said...

    As a note that is somewhat off topic, I recommend geni.com to help track as much of a family tree as is accessible.

    5:41 AM  
    Blogger Larry said...

    Thanks for the pointer.

    10:42 AM  

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