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Is it normal to become quite obsessed with your ancestors?

(64 Posts)
WhyDidIEatThat Wed 24-Oct-18 10:55:22

Asking for a friend. But it is quite normal isn’t it?

UrbaneSprawl Wed 24-Oct-18 11:12:57

Depends what you mean by “obsessed”...

I used to work in this sort of area, and would say that it’s quite normal to become interested in your family history.

For what it’s worth, I think there’s something that happens as the living links to the past begin to fade (the death of one’s own parents in particular) that drives curiosity about this - is the family legend really true, did great aunt Ada really run off with a sailor, etc., etc. Approaching middle age also sometimes makes people start thinking about their own mortality and their place in the world.

It’s also quite compelling to link one’s own family history to wider social history, and consider the small choices and moments at which “history rattles over the points” (as Alan Bennett put it) - if my grandfather was evacuated to a different town, I wouldn’t be here. Thinks like “Who Do You Think You Are?” play this up very effectively. The increase in availability of records online means that it’s potentially easier to find evidence to support (or disprove) family stories than ever before.

ProfYaffle Wed 24-Oct-18 11:13:24

I hope so!

I researched my tree a few years ago now. I found that while in the 'discovery' phase I thought of little else but it has worn off now that I've done everything I can reasonably do.

IsTheRainEverComingBack Wed 24-Oct-18 11:14:29

I’ve been working on an Ancestry family tree for a few months. I have to really think about when I sit down to it because once I do everything else goes out the window.

WeaselsRising Wed 24-Oct-18 11:20:18

of course. I am totally obsessed with mine since I've been researching.

What I find is that I'm really attached to a couple of lines but totally disinterested in others.

I started when I was 12. That was more than 40 years ago and I am still just as obsessed. More so, now it's so easy to research without travel. You are never finished.

WhyDidIEatThat Wed 24-Oct-18 11:27:30

Oh thank you for normalising it! I wish there was a ‘am I being normal’ board 😀 I just didn’t see it coming because I’ve never really known my biological relatives- grew up in a massive family who are more than enough for anyone - I knew my mum (and had vague memories of her mum) who similarly had no idea who the rest of her people were, where they came from. So when my oldest daughter wanted to compare all the main dna kits out there and I matched instantly with my dad (!!) I’ve been hooked ever since.

Get the impression other people don’t fully understand!

florafawna Wed 24-Oct-18 11:42:02

Don't waste your life!

WhyDidIEatThat Wed 24-Oct-18 11:45:17

And yes to the wider social history! I’m so horribly ignorant of the geography, the politics, the conflicts, the everything really. There are endless things to look into like what kind of things did they eat (see username) were they obsessed with their ancestors too! Some of them definitely were because some lines are so well documented.

I tend to become most obsessed with the ones that end, dead, abruptly only two or three generations back.

WhyDidIEatThat Wed 24-Oct-18 11:46:48

I definitely haven’t wasted my life! Although you do make an amazingly pertinent point 😳 I do have actual work to do . . .

BookMeOnTheSudExpress Wed 24-Oct-18 11:49:16

I got a bit involved with Ancestry etc about 10 years ago, and traced various branches of my family back to the 1600s, which was all very interesting. I must say now, I find I am far more interested in how, say, my parents lived in the 60s. Or even me, as a child, in the 70s.

A friend of mine is what I would term a bit unhealthily obsessed. It is all she does. She started about the same time as me, and we used to chat late at night as we were both delving into marriage certs etc. But her whole life is now taken up with it, and I confess to finding that a bit odd. Because at the end of the day, she's not found out much more than me, yet she will go off and try and find a specific house, or spend hours on FB speculating what her ancestor must have been doing in such a census year etc. She's done all the DNA kits and is now learning a specific language to research a specific ancestor.

(I realise I sound mean about her, I'm not, not really, but I confess to having hidden her FB feed because I don't really have any interest in her great great aunt's tombstone etc)

WhyDidIEatThat Wed 24-Oct-18 11:57:54

Wow that is a whole new level!! And a good check list 😀

I’ve shared nothing on FB but I have via Snapchat to interested relatives - not tombstones but photos of surprise grandparents.

WhyDidIEatThat Wed 24-Oct-18 11:59:04

I don’t get the whole find a grave thing, I do like the romance of ‘buried at sea’ when that crops up though.

IsTheRainEverComingBack Wed 24-Oct-18 12:41:10

See I had an ancestor pop up from graves who is buried near Jerusalem after dying near there in the First World War. I found that really interesting.

BookMe if you went that far back did you get out and about looking in parish records? I’m wondering if the next step I need to take is a more active one

WhyDidIEatThat Wed 24-Oct-18 13:36:33

Ahhh yes that must be fascinating. I’m (mentally at this stage) drawing up a list of places and or living relatives to visit for a bit of ancestral tourism and a grave like that would definitely be on there.

whiteroseredrose Wed 24-Oct-18 13:44:10

I did! Once I'd gone back a few generations I wanted to add flesh to the bone with school records, army records, newspapers etc. My uncle took me for a drive and showed me where my great grandparents lived. So I've got pictures too.

WhyDidIEatThat Wed 24-Oct-18 13:47:26

I’ve got back to the 1600s and earlier with the direct paternal lines but other people had already done the work, they’re horribly inbred over a few hundred years and it’s just all very well documented.

mateysmum Wed 24-Oct-18 13:55:02

It's totally normal - if you're me!

I'm obsessed with DH's family which is far more interesting than mine.They did big things in the 19th century so there is a ton of material available.

Once I got past the births, marriages and deaths, it is the personal stories that fascinate me. The hand written letters where you see someone's personality leap from the page. The woman who tried her whole life to conceal her poor and illegitimate birth, creating a whole, fictitious personal history. The clandestine marriage that ended in a scandalous divorce. The accidental shooting of the "golden child" that left a deep rift in the family.

I could go on....

WhyDidIEatThat Wed 24-Oct-18 13:56:03

My oldest ‘dna circle’ (groups that ancestry.com put you in made of people descended from a common ancestor, sort of mixture of the paper trail and dna) is only 1750 so not sure how legit anything before that is

WhyDidIEatThat Wed 24-Oct-18 13:56:57

Ah it sounds like a fabulous sweeping historical drama, novel!

SenecaFalls Wed 24-Oct-18 13:57:39

I wouldn't say that I am obsessed, but I am interested, as I think many Americans are. And I am also very interested in the wider social history. A few years ago I stood close to the spot where my Scottish many times great grandfather sailed in the late 1700s to North Carolina. He took most of his children with him, but left a married daughter in Scotland. Standing in that place and looking out at the vast ocean, I had a sense of the kind of courage and optimism it must have taken to embark on a journey like that, leaving everything that you know behind. And it is a story that has been repeated over and over again in the history of immigration to the US.

WhyDidIEatThat Wed 24-Oct-18 14:02:54

Ahhh hello seneca! Our ancestors definitely knew one another!

justilou1 Wed 24-Oct-18 14:06:07

My kids were doing a family tree school assignment, so I jumped onto Ancestry.com during one of their free trials with no expectation of finding anything remotely interesting. I am an Aussie descended from shifty, uneducated types from all over the UK and Europe, literally starting with the first fleet. I very quickly discovered that one branch of my family was MUCH cooler than I could have ever possibly thought, and it goes back a loooooooong way! My rather imperious, High Anglican grandmother had a shameful secret. Her grandmother was a Jewess! (And to my delight, they kept very detailed records!!!) I discovered that her branch of the family were Sephardi Jews, and waaaaaaay back, the father of the family was tortured by the Spanish Inquisiton and the mother was burnt at the stake for heresy. They fled to Portugal, which was then annexed, then France. The next generation went to Jamaica and became a “merchant” (aka pirate) and made his fortune only attacking Spanish ships. Revenge, much?

WhyDidIEatThat Wed 24-Oct-18 14:09:32

Wow! These all make such brilliant stories!

SenecaFalls Wed 24-Oct-18 14:11:15

WhyDidIEatThat There was a lot of intermarriage among Scottish settlers in North Carolina during the 18th century. Maybe we are cousins? smile

WhyDidIEatThat Wed 24-Oct-18 14:16:50

I bet we are! One of my main migrations starts with ‘melting pot in the American colonies’ which made me lol because, no, they just kept mating with one another 😂

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