I haven’t posted here for a while. I blame Richard Dawkins’ ancestors.
The only known photo of an uncle who died years before I was born.
If they hadn’t kept slaves, a Telegraph hack wouldn’t have scribbled that ridiculous story intended to embarrass him, and I wouldn’t have decided, on a whim, to look into my own family tree.
And that’s why I haven’t been here for a while; genealogy is very addictive!
At first, I tried to get back as far as I could. I got back to the early seventeenth century easily enough, and may even have a line I can trace to 1240, if I can resolve a problem with one generation in the eighteenth century, but I soon became more interested with recent generations. All those conversations that went right over my head when I was a child are now ringing some bells, as I begin to put life stories, and even faces, to the names my mother and grandmother gossipped about as I played with my toys.
Me with my mum, when I was 7 months old. I can scarcely believe it's me, so imagining my older ancestors is even more difficult..
My great grandmother. I knew her name, and I even met her when I was very young, but I'd never seen a picture of her before I started my family tree.
I had tried to research my family tree a few years ago, but couldn’t get further back than 1888. The rising popularity of genealogy has made it much easier to share results online, and there’s more opportunity to cross-check. You can also get quite a long way just using free accounts on various genealogy sites, so it’s worth having a go.
One side effect I’ve noticed is a greater appreciation of time. I have long been of the opinion that many people who don’t accept the fact of evolution are simply overwhelmed by the huge numbers involved. I can understand the scale of evolutionary time, and even geological time, intellectually. I can’t really envisage that amount of time instinctively, however. It just wasn’t necessary for humans to deal with such big numbers until recently, so we haven’t evolved to do so.
Of course, evolutionary time doesn’t compare with the few hundred years in by family tree, but it’s also difficult to understand the passing of centuries, since no human has lasted much more than a hundred years, and most don’t even get that far. A few real stories about real lives can help understand time.
That won’t persuade dyed-in-the-wool creationists though, unless I can trace my ancestry, precisely, further back than the age they think the universe is!