Objectives & philosophy for family history research
From Mecklenburg to Moore: Four North Carolina Families

Objectives

The objectives of the author of this webpage are to learn something about each of my own great-grandparents as well as to learn about local history. History books and courses teach us about a larger context for our lives, but the foundation of that larger society, nation, or world is us and our own families and communities.

I want to share data with other family members and researchers in order to construct a clearer picture of our ancestors, how they lived and what they believed in. I am grateful to those who have shared their memories, pictures, and documents with me.

These pictures and stories are also a memorial and an expression of gratitude to the people who went before me. In all their courage and all their imperfections, they are the foundation of my world.



Philosophy

Things I have learned so far by studying my own genealogy:

Everyone wants to be free and self-determined. No one really wants to bury their own hope and desire under that of a more dominant individual. As long as anyone takes advantage of size, strength, or wealth to take another person's portion, there will be conflict and unhappiness.

Accurate collection of facts and telling a story about the past that is fair to the people involved is challenging. First, historical records are terse and not always accurate, leaving a lot to the imagination. Second, anyone's account of an event will differ from that of another person or even from their own account on a different day. Third, we see the past in terms that belong to our own present values and situations, not those of our ancestors.

Clarity and objectivity are necessary for meeting those challenges. I believe the following quote is a good guideline. Though it comes from Protestant Christian scripture, in the poetic King James translation, many religions and philosophies express the same idea in other words:

                And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest
                not the beam that is in thine own eye?

                Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye;
                and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

                Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt
                thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

                --from Matthew, chapter 7, verses 3-5, New Testament, King James' Version
                (repeated almost verbatim in Luke, chapter 6, verses 41-42)


And finally, to paraphrase the words of the Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Han: that which we can understand, we can love.


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© 2001 by Glenda Alexander, updated April 2007   Standard copyright restrictions apply.

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