Epilogue

Cézanne, or maybe it was de Kooning, said a painting is never really finished, just abandoned at a more or less appropriate time. [1]  So it is for my efforts to gather back in a handful of the people and stories of our family. The rest of my life is calling, and I’ve got to go. A few words though, both philosophical and practical, to wrap things up.

First the philosophical.

At this point, I used to have a lengthy section here, in which I recapped and discussed the multiple reasons – intellectual, emotional, even spiritual – for putting in the time and effort to produce this site. It was an orderly little exposition. But…

Over the months, it really didn’t sit well with me. By explaining certain things, we kill them. We just kill them. Stone dead.

“Too much courtesy impairs your virtue,” said the Zen sage.

If you want to know why I did this… THIS!… why I’m happy to have done it, why I’d still, knowing what I know now, do it all again, find and watch the movie Coco.

If, as the credits roll, you “get it,” then great, you were meant to. You’ve probably always “gotten it.” And if not, don’t sweat it.

Now the practical.

There are mistakes here. I know that. I’ve done my best to eliminate them, but if there is one promise I can make, it is that not everything here happened the way I have set it down.

Mistakes creep in, in all sorts of ways.

Transcription error is a huge one, as is taking for gospel the work of other researchers. Material in old books varies widely in quality. Where less-well-documented families are concerned you have no idea what you’re getting. A family member writes to an author who’s doing a genealogy. That author gets a few things mixed up. Those few things get put in a book. A hundred years later, they’ve become time-honored truth.

Some deviations from the truth are at least semi-intentional. For example, a paid researcher, working at the behest of a Victorian family interested in finding the royal underpinnings they are certain exist, bends and massages and optimistically reinterprets the available evidence for his patrons in order to create a more socially advantageous history. [Would never happen, right?]

In the future, I believe the waters of research will become considerably muddier as these distortions are compiled and re-compiled, especially through the sharing of gedcoms [genealogical information stored in a unique computerized format]. The Web forgets nothing, including inaccurate information.

The moral to all this is: take everything with a grain of salt. Caveat emptor. If and when you can correct the record, do.

What else? If I were to say one other thing, it would be, “Visit the NEHGS.” The people there are the Talmudic scholars of Yankee history. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

And then? Find an ancestor who piques your interest, someone who in some way presents some kind of mystery. Then, learn whatever you can in the time you have, and—don’t wait!—tell someone you love what you learned.

 

L.S. Lawrence

begun in Monkton, Maryland, 1997

abandoned in Monkton, Vermont, 2017

 

FOOTNOTE:

[1] It may actually have been Paul Valery speaking about a poem.

 

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One thought on “Epilogue

  1. Helen B. Hazen June 29, 2017 / 12:52 pm

    Wonderful job, Langdon! Nate and I have both found your information fascinating and will miss your blogs. What are you on to to next? We would love to hear. Aunt Roddy

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