What if, after knowing my ancestors only through the few records that survived them, I got to meet one of them? Would I get along with them? I said in a previous post that I find all of my ancestors beautiful, because I feel a connection with them. But what if I encountered some of the DEAs (d****d elusive ancestors) face-to-face? Would I be disappointed? Would they be?
I’m 124% positive that I have made some egregious assumptions about my ancestors, based on research I have done over the last 18 or so years. I’m absolutely predisposed to think all my ancestors were pretty great people, with the exception of that one guy who married, had four kids, dropped them off to live with the Shakers, and then married again. And once again. (He was sent down to Sing Sing for that last marriage, which overlapped with marriage #2.) Of course we want to think that the people who were responsible for putting us here came from sterling stock. I’m pretty sure that on the whole, my ancestors were good, decent people. But the records don’t really tell you anything about their personalities; it’s hard to say if I would actually like them or not.
In order for us to meet, one of us would have to time travel. That, in itself, would be stressful, so when we met, we’d have to make allowances for the crazy day one of us was having. I would almost certainly be wearing jeans, so that would probably be shocking to my ancestor, who might react badly. I’d have to take that into consideration as well. But I grew up on a farm, I’m pretty DIY, I appreciate the bonds of family (I can hear my family shouting their dissent, but it’s true), and I have travelled fairly widely, I’m accustomed to meeting people from other cultures. So I think that I could get along with my time-travelling ancestor. (I decided while I was writing this that it would be my ancestor who comes forward in time — this would allow her to see that I am pretty normal for my time, and make accepting me easier.)
But after we got over the shock and fear, and I found her some clothes she could wear and showed her how to use a smart phone, I think that we’d go for coffee, tell each other stories of our lives, and find out that we have a lot in common. It would be easier for my ancestor, because she, unlike me, wouldn’t be constantly be bumping up against her preconceived notions about me. I’d be mentally snarling at the census takers who got it wrong, at the mistakes that were made on official documents, and the gaping holes that had been left by documents that no longer exist. But I would be so happy to have a complete picture of this person, my ancestor that I have spent so much time thinking about. I just hope I would remember to make notes, and take a few photos or some video.