Thursday, January 07, 2010

"I See Dead People "

Haley Joel Osmont said it best when in the 1999 flick "The Sixth Sense " he whispers to Bruce Willis " I see Dead People". Completely creepy!

Here it is :

I don't like to brag Haley Joel,  but I've been seeing  dead people since 1995 and my people are way deader than yours. Some of them have been dead for hundreds of years.  However, I only see relatives. I'm selective that way.

You see Haley Joel,  I am a genealogist.

Sometimes days go by where I live more completely in the past than the present. These are the days where coffee cups pile up on the computer desk, beds don't get made, animals get ignored,  and I announce we're getting takeaway for tea when my husband walks in the door at 6pm, like I planned it hours ago. Chances are I didn't even know it was 6pm. As far as I'm concerned it's half past 1832.

Once we ate takeaway for 6 straight days when I was tracing my great grandfather who came from a Russian controlled country, jumped ship in Fremantle harbour and swam ashore changing his name to something anglo-sounding without the benefit of legal process. The man never filed a tax return. Never became an Australian citizen. Didnt he realise how difficult that was going to make him to find 100 years down the track? Eventually my  9 year old begged me for vegetables with tears in her eyes and whispered the magic words "I'm sick of McDonalds". Thank you Genealogy for setting my daughter on the path to righteous eating habits.

In the pre-internet days, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and man had not yet discovered fire,  family history was done the old fashioned way. You used to hand write letters and use an actual stamp and envelope. You had to wait weeks before you got a response if you got one at all. You used to talk to members of your family and take an oral history. The internet has changed everything. So many resources online, so many people willing to share , so many people with an interest in seeing their own dead people. Genealogy has exploded. What used to take months can now sometimes be found in an hour. Sometimes it still takes years.  Or never.

I guess with family history you're either into it or you're totally not. I am aware I can wax lyrical about  1738 in Ingoldsby Lincolnshire, and can bore you with the statistics of what an agricultural labourer earned in Sussex in 1851 and that not everyone is interested. Just let your eyes glaze over ever so slightly when I start talking and I'll get the message. And keep right on talking.

For the rest of us that share this obsession it's amazing when you find someone tracing the same family as you , even if they are your third cousin seven times removed and they live in some place in Wales you never knew existed and they think Australia is actually somewhere in Europe. ("That would be Aust-ria, I'm in Aust-ral-ia -southern hemipshere -bottom of the world- yes it is a long way away- no we dont keep kangaroos in our back yards") 

Dead people have fascinating stories to tell. It's better than any soap opera. My great grandaunt cut my great grandfather out of all his own wedding photo's because she hated him so much. Nobody knows why - or if they do they aren't talking.   I've found a few tragedies, and the odd skeleton and scandal. I've dreamed of having a convict pop up because it's just so darn trendy to have felons in your family branches. One of my family died tragically in a fire 90 years ago. I had him pegged as a romantic hero until I discovered he was a tramp living in a box and set fire to himself while drinking cheap booze.   This hobby is like having my own personal episodes of Days of Our Lives.

So next time Great Aunt Maud pulls out her photo collection and wants to talk about the good old days, let her. You might learn something interesting.

And if anyone is related to the elusive William Wates please contact me !


Vivian said...

I went to the kitchen and refilled my coffee mug and came back to the computer, STILL laughing from some of your comments about your relatives. (by the way, I really enjoy your writing).

I'm totally interested in genealogy, but I'm not the one doing the research. I'm just benefiting from others in our families who have gathered the names and the dates and the little stories to pass on to our kids.

Thanks for reminding me that I need to update some family stories and stats, just to keep the family historical flow going.

Shay said...

lol...Everything I posted is 100% true. ( I probably toned it down a little actually)

I guess over time all families have funny stories and tragedies. It's great that you're keeping details though. Future generations will be thankful. I wish most of my family had thought a bit further ahead. Past generations have just had huge bonfires with pictures, photos and what not, which makes me want to cry!

Judy said...

Loved the "I See Dead People" entry. How can I contact you about using it in a family newsletter?

Shay said...

Hi Judy,

I'm flattered you would even ask!

You can email me at howkinattpgdotcomdotau, substituting the at for the symbol, and the dot for actual dots.

Looking forward to hearing from you!


Mary said...

Thanks for sharing this post! It was a a great read, with a good balance of humor and trueth.
Mary in AZ

Elizabeth said...

Wish I could say, I knew you when, because this was a fabulous post. I'm glad I got to come back and read it.

You probably know all the ins and outs, but just in case, here is a great (free) resource: Family Search.