Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Getting Started: Why You Should

I feel like part of the reason that more young people aren't into genealogy is because young people have this very real unwillingness to do anything "uncool." If your friends aren't doing it, then it must be weird, and if it's weird then it's not okay to do. Kinda like the Spice Girls I still have stashed inside my iPod.

I still believe you can totally judge a person by their favorite Spice Girl.
Posh Spice FTW!
If you want to reach younger people with the message that genealogy matters, you have to go after the ones that have already decided they don't care what what other people think of them.

Yes. I'm talking about your geeks, nerds, and bookworms. The young people with enough self awareness to understand a few basic realities about life and their place in it.

The thing about this particular group of young people is that they're already spoken for in terms of obsessions. They're often part of fandoms--online communities that share in their entertainment interests, especially literature. Whether it's a show, movie, book, series, or game, the time they spend in those associations is what lays claim on any time they would use to investigate something like genealogy.

Fandoms exist in every kind and variety--Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Sherlock, Twi-hards, Nerdfighters, and all the rest. The people involved are genuinely smart and funny, and they love connecting with people online for stuff they care about. More than anything else, they appreciate a good story, which is why they dedicate significant amounts of time to their chosen fandoms. And I would argue that young people in fandoms would make excellent genealogists, even if they don't realize it.

We relate to famous people and fictional characters because they often represent traits we want to see in ourselves. Fandoms thrive on that association. These traits are exactly what we want to find in the lives of our ancestors. And because these fandoms also come along with appreciation for history, literature, technology, and science (and thereby, scientific proof) fandom nerds have the skill sets they need to be pretty amazing at genealogy.

The best way to reach people in any fandom is through the people and characters they care about, so I wanted to point out the connection genealogy has to some of the more popular fandoms that exist.

Who Do You Think You Are?--J.K.Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series.

The popularity of this series is based largely on how Rowling presents the fight against evil, and triumph over struggle. Much of the experience she uses to paint that picture are the struggles from her own life. By learning about her family's history, she was able to see where she really comes from. It gives all of her success an even deeper meaning, because she wasn't just overcoming her struggles. She was overcoming all the bad hands that have been dealt to her since before she was born. Seeing how her story provides a resolution for her ancestors is as good as any of the books she ever wrote.

FindMyPast.co.uk Blog--Benedict Cumberbatch, actor for Sherlock Holmes in BBC's Sherlock

With a murder case and a slave owner from Barbados among his lineage, the influence these ancestors have on Cumberbatch is actually really personal. The role he plays in Amazing Grace is directly influenced by his family's connection to slavery. A dark past leads to a depth of emotion and complexity of character that give us shows like Sherlock. What few people stop to think about is that this depth and complexity are a reflection of the actor's real life--and everyone's real life is a reflection of their genealogy.

Who Do You Think You Are?--David Tennant, actor for The Doctor in BBC's Doctor Who

I never appreciated how much of David Tennant simply made his incarnation of the Doctor after himself until I watched this episode of Who Do You Think You Are? To see him romping through church yards and randomly picking up skulls without thinking about it is exactly what you would imagine The Doctor doing. Watching Tennant interact with his family made me not only want to know him personally, but to know his whole family.

Who Do You Think You Are?--Alex Kingston, actor for River Song in BBC's Doctor Who

I love River Song's character in Doctor Who, and seeing her discover her Jewish heritage was fantastic. You can see how the strong female characters she plays have been provided for out of Alex's rich heritage of determined women. Even if the brothel one of them was running sounds like something out of Les Miserables!

Bella said it, and now we will too. You really are a vampire.
Ancestry.com Press--Robert Pattinson; actor, played Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter Potter films 4 and 5, Edward Cullen in the Twilight film series

Apparently he is related to Vlad III Dracula, also known as Vlad the Impaler, who was the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula. Coincidence? Typecasting? You decide!

And, last but not least, there are the Nerdfighters!

Gussie Manlove--Vlogbrothers, Nerdfighters, etc.

So, I actually attempted to find out if anything has ever been said about John or Hank Green's genealogy. But in the process of all that Googling, I discovered something even better--how Nerdfighteria actually unraveled the mystery of Gussie Manlove! Now imagine if the members of this (rather large) online community all learned about their own family history. And like, started blogging about it like crazy. They would certainly take down an Ancestry.com server or two... or ten!


So yeah. Lots of cool and famous people do genealogy. And if you're a young person reading this, and you admire these famous people, ask yourself one question: "Do I know more about these (or any other) famous people than I do about myself?"

And if you answered in the affirmative, I invite you to start exploring your own family's mysteries. And we want to hear about what you discover! Check out the submit tab at the top, send us an email and let us know what you find!

Happy researching!