It started about a year ago when this thought popped into my head:
No one will look for me.
Since then, those six words have been quietly haunting…and terribly true. No one will search for me as an ancestor. For the most part, my husband and I are childless by choice. I can not have children of my own but adoption is expensive. If we really wanted too, I suppose we could be parents but neither of us is interested enough to make the investment. Selfish? Maybe. And while there is a small glimmer of hope that one of my siblings may have children, we are all growing older and time is running out. We are the end of a bloodline – which is terribly sad in a way. We’re good people – probably the most well-educated, most well-off Hirsch’s in the line (mostly due to the opportunities that our time has allowed). And yet, we have no one to pass it on too.
Maybe we’ll be seen as the eccentric wing of the family – the independents, the women and men who worked, focused on home and family, but chose not to have children. Maybe one of us will do something note-worthy someday (my bets are on Wendy) and history will footnote us. This is a big maybe.
So why am I doing this? I do enjoy it. Sharing my findings with family is such a rush. Properly documenting what I find is an addictive drug for my obsessive-compulsive organizing side and I guess there is probably research out there that proves psychologically I value knowing the history and back-story of my tribe. But beyond that? Isn’t most of the knowledge gained from all of this effort meant to be passed on to the next generation? Who gets the papers, the databases, the tidbits of a family? If I am the elder in the tribe that knows our history, where does this information go if there is no new, young member to carry the mantle?
As I type it occurs to me that Native Americans and other indigenous peoples have dealt with this question. People interested enough in our nation’s natural and human history have benefited from researching the Native American experience. I’ve seen plenty of random family histories gathering dust in a state or public library – gifts spelled out in the wills of folks just like me – but there is usually a politician or philanthropist somewhere in the line that warrants interest. Who is going to show interest the “Hirsch Experience”? Does it really matter? Isn’t it just a hobby?
I have no answers for this today – but I’ll be looking for writings by others along these lines…why do we do genealogical research? Maybe there is a genealogist out there who cares to comment…