Lineage, Lineage, Lineage
Updated: Sep 14, 2018
Julie A. Wilmot
There seems to be this pervasive view in genealogy that there are superior and inferior lineages. For instance, people descended from royalty, Mayflower passengers, past Presidents, war veterans, and the Founding fathers can join numerous lineage societies. They have ‘clout.’ But what about those of us who don’t have any famous or infamous people in our lineage?
Your earliest immigrant was circa 1900? You aren’t descended from anyone history has deemed notable? Sorry, nothing for you. You’re too new, and too plebeian.
This indirect classification system is outdated, and, quite frankly, laughable. Think about how we come to be. We’re the result of relationships between other people. Do we have any control over those relationships? No. We have no control over who we’re descended from, or the actions of our ancestors. Yet, some persist in excluding less-than-perfect ancestors from their family trees, and promoting those who society has deemed important.
Almost everyone’s family has a black sheep in it. The issue is that some of us try to erase their existence. Others embrace it. We tend to think of our ancestors as perfect people. Newsflash: They weren’t, just like we aren’t perfect now. Even the people whom history has noted as important weren’t perfect.
There are some who will take this post as an attack on those who join lineage societies. It isn’t. If you’re a descendant of George Washington, or have several Rev War veterans in your tree, you should be proud. If you have millworkers and laborers in your family tree who didn’t arrive in this country until recently, you should be just as proud. Without them, you wouldn’t be here. I personally come from a family who has both. My maternal ancestors arrived in this country relatively early. My paternal ancestors did not. I value both sides equally.
We need to stop rating our ancestry by our ancestors’ perceived level of importance. Everyone’s lineage matters, no matter who they’re descended from, whether it be a past President or a farmer. Go research your ancestry, and discover who you are descended from. If you find someone famous in your tree, that’s wonderful. But, if you don’t, don’t be disappointed, or feel that you’re somehow inferior. Your lineage is just as important as anyone else’s.