People Who Are Not Interested in Genealogy

Robert W. Gregg
Robert W. Gregg

You know the peo­ple I’m talk­ing about.

You meet them all the time.

They say, “Oh, I’m not inter­est­ed in geneal­o­gy. What could you POSSIBLY find inter­est­ing in that?”

In my expe­ri­ence, most of these folks begin with­in 15 min­utes to tell you that their father’s emi­grat­ed to the Unit­ed States from Italy, via Puer­to Rico, and that their father was always ashamed by being from Puer­to Rico.… And that they wish they knew more about their Ital­ian fam­i­ly, and wished their grand­moth­er and father were will­ing to talk about where the fam­i­ly came from in Italy. It turns out that their high-school sweet­heart went to Italy and returned with pages from a local phone book show­ing all the peo­ple with their sur­name, con­sid­ered rare in the US, but not in Italy.

Admit­ted­ly, this is only my expe­ri­ence, but the peo­ple who are not inter­est­ed in geneal­o­gy seem to be the most inter­est­ed once they real­ize that it’s not about doc­u­ments, not about pro­vid­ing prop­er sourc­ing. It’s about his­to­ry, it’s about the lives of the peo­ple who came before. Doc­u­ments, sources, research meth­ods are all in sup­port of the goal, which is under­stand­ing his­to­ry at ground lev­el. While the research itself may not be of inter­est to every­one, great sto­ries of fame and ignominy will nev­er lose their appeal.