Image from the pre-Raphaelite painter John Collier

I’ve been doing some genealogical research lately. You know – looking into my family history and trying to figure out who and where I came from. I think it’s a stage of life interest.

Now that I’ve just celebrated my Beatles Birthday it has seemed more urgent to know.

In my thirties, forties and even most of my fifties, I didn’t care. I was too busy living my life in the present. My family and career took most of my time and mental energy.

These days, while I’m still working and taking care of my family, it’s different somehow. I don’t mean to sound morbid, but time is ticking away.

I have this vague sense of “now or never” for a lot of things.

Delving into my family history is one.

It’s been quite the journey so far.

I’m using the online database from Ancestry dot com. And all I can say about that is Wow! They are an amazing resource. For example, I’ve been able to see my grandfather’s draft card and a copy of his actual signature. This was especially poignant because I never knew him. He died when my father was a boy. To see his name written by his own hand brought me to tears.

If you know about Ancestry dot com, you are aware that they use a system of little green leaves to alert you to information in their massive database. If a leaf pops up on one of the names you’re researching, it means there are connections, information, and data to be reviewed.

So this week I was following those leaves on one particular line, clicking and reviewing the research, adding the pertinent information to my family tree.

Before I knew it I was into eleventh century England. It was pretty trippy, but that wasn’t the real surprise. I’m clicking and reading and clicking some more. On this kind of cursory glance, who can tell if any of its true? Names recorded in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book would require a LOT of research.

But I kept on clicking. It’s really a bit addictive – those shimmering little green leaves…

The next thing I know it says that one of my ancestors is Lady Godiva, wife of the Leofric the Earl of Mercia.

That got my attention.

Perhaps you know the story: this noblewoman rode through the streets of Coventry wearing nothing but her long hair to protest taxation of the poor. At least that’s one story. There are many others. Supposedly she wanted to prove that the people were honorable and wouldn’t look upon her nakedness. And everyone complied except poor Tom, a tailor who was immediately struck blind. From this story came the term “peeping Tom.”

Long story short, my ancestral connection to Godiva and Leofric is pure fiction. Someone wanted it to be true and worked hard to make the facts fit into their fantasy. I almost got caught there as well. It was fun to consider Lady Godiva as my twenty-seventh great grandmother.

 

It has made me think about why we seem to be so obsessed with celebrity, and want desperately to find a connection, even a false one, to link us to someone famous. Is it simply a misguided need for attention?

Poor self-esteem?

Mental illness?

Or just human nature?

 

I’m opting for the last choice, but I wonder what you think?  Who out there is doing family research? How’s it going?

P.S. This is not an advertisement for Ancestry dot com. They have no idea who I am.

 

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