Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A Glimpse or Perception — Now and Then

As good as someone else’s life may look you never really know the full story. 

We see countless posts on social media such as Facebook and others, in fact many that we create ourselves. Words, photos displaying our world — thoughts and feelings whether happy, sad or indifferent. 

Our ancestors certainly didn’t have social media. Newspapers didn’t start to appear in England until the 1600’s.(1) 
The first printed newspaper is presumed to have been printed in Germany in the late 1400’s.(2)

The closest we get to social media in the past was the society page that began around the 1830’s in the United States.  That pretty much included prominent citizens or something newsworthy about a local resident, such as engagements, marriages or births, or maybe someone’s name made the paper if they committed a crime. 

Yes, presently, social media is a small glimpse, or a perception of our life.  
No longer is this exclusive to high society and the elite, but it is available virtually to anyone with access to the internet, via computer or mobile devices.  Yes, a snippet of a moment captured, yet perceived a certain way by the observer or viewer’s perception. 

Things perceived are not always as they appear.  
I was watching a popular, morning news show, recently and was touched by a segment about one of the co-hosts. She shared about her struggle with infertility after she and her husband decided to increase their family after the birth of their first child. With her beautiful smile and a persona of sunshine each day on the show one would never know the painful challenges she faced.
Although, our perception may have been not a care in the world , it could not have been further from the reality of the challenge being faced. Not hopeless, but emotionally taxing. 

I was moved by her honesty and appreciated her willingness to be transparent about her personal challenging experience— a situation that does affect many women.  Despite the evidence that this was not easy, I knew her story would touch many, and that despite the hardship, it would bring encouragement on some level to those struggling in general. 

 I realized, that although I may not have had that particular challenge in my life, I certainly have had my own unique, painful challenges that brought on a feeling of despair at times with a sense of isolation. 

One thing is certain.. we all face challenges in life. Some minor and some very painful at times. 
Pain and hardship is universal and we all understand what that feels like at one point or another. 

It is all relative, but I think it may be safe to say that most of our ancestors throughout history faced much more challenging situations and difficulties than we do in present day.  However, I say that loosely, as I realize there can be exceptions of anyone who has experienced a horrific scenario.  

I began to think, if this is true, then, why is it that we don’t share difficulties with others.  
I know that, sharing our struggles isn’t always easy, particularly, if there have been painful relationships or betrayal involved. I am sure there are infinite reasons why. 
Often we stay silent lest we think we will be perceived as complaining or negative. Yet, even in those times, it is important to find a safe place to share our struggles.

And what about our ancestors, who were much less inclined to speak about their own feelings and painful experiences. Who did they confide in?  
How did they handle their circumstances and emotional disappointments. 
Obviously, they did not have a lot of idle time on their hands. 
And as the saying, which is the origin from an old rhymed couplet(3):

Man may work from sun to sun,
But woman's work is never done.”

We are aware of prominent people throughout history in the Arts and well-known literary classics, which when looked at more closely we see how they were often inspired by their deepest thoughts, feelings or painful experiences.  

On a side note...   We can go through emotionally, taxing situations that overwhelm us to a state of despair and feel as we don’t have a choice but to hold steady for a time until we can walk again. Sometimes, we choose to isolate ourselves 
away for a time of reflection to regroup. 
Everyone has a different threshold and tolerance, and since we cannot see the whole picture, we will never fully comprehend fully the struggle, how the situation is processed and in time the result. 
None of us have all the answers, but I have come to realize the importance of close friends. 
I challenge myself and others to live more in the present, stay in a state of thankfulness and appreciation for whatever comes. 
My motto for years is... “As bad as it may seem, things can always be worse.”
Hopefully, we learn to not dwell so much on the problems, but walk in spiritual faith to find a deeper meaning within the experience and solutions with encouragement from those in similar situations along the way. 

So what does all of this have to do with our genealogy?? 

As stated earlier... Does what we read, truly represent the whole picture?  Or is it possibly the persona of an image we perceive. 

We see a window of time but not the entire picture when we research our ancestors. 
Making it difficult to assess what we see, read, or hear without deeper research. 

Often we read incorrectly into someone’s words or our perception of their life, because we don’t walk in their shoes or see from their viewpoint of life.  
There are many circumstances, family situations and ethnicities. This is what makes us all so unique and interesting.  

Our geographical locations or regions, also help form our ideas and perceptions. 
Working with genealogical research, we must certainly hold that before us as we try to interpret information we come across and try to make sense of something we are learning about at every step and turn we take. 

 As genealogists we learn that we must not jump to conclusions based on perception. 
We must create a habit of processing our thoughts through the lens of careful analysis attained through reliable Information that we can use to form a reasonable hypothesis that we can prove or disprove.  
Obviously this may not always be possible, as difficulties arise when we uncover areas we know little about, such as an ancestors origination from a foreign country, different religion, culture, etc 

We never lived in a time period in the past or experienced those cultures, so how can we presume to understand an individual’s mindset in a specific time period. All we can do is research as best we can and attempt to place ourselves in our ancestors shoes and try to not interject our modern day thinking.  
Often, we complicate this process with our own interpretation based on our own perspective, bias or simply wishful thinking, when it may have actually been much simpler reason.  

As researchers, our work begins as we go about learning as much as possible about the history of the locations and time-frame you are researching to better understand it all in our current modern-day perspective.  
Sometimes it means to be as understanding as possible of possibilities that may have been catalysts for our ancestors towards the array of decisions they had to make. 

These variables will help develop a particular hypothesis which sets the parameters for proving or disproving, the said hypothesis, as the case may be. 

Whatever the case, we we must reach that conclusion after exhausting all possible avenues. 
This is where the quality of the work done will come to light. The difference between a good researcher and an excellent research. Not perfect. We will never reach perfection, but excellent research is a worthy goal to aspire. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Trying Out New Ancestry Features

During the most recent RootsTech this past February-March 2019, Ancestry introduced several new features to use with our family trees and DNA matches. I for one am very glad to see these new additions that help organize what we do on their site.  I am all for finding ways to make things easier to work with and track while we research and collect information. 

To access these new Tools you must first turn on Beta. Go to the AncestryDNA pull down menu and click on ‘ExtrasTab’ then  —> AncestryLabs   —> Beta.

This allows you to tag information that you have in your tree, to find things easier and asses any patterns.  
To add a tag to a person, go to a their Profile page, then below their name click on the small blue tag.  A Workspace pop up opens on a Side Panel to the right. 
Here is where you can make notes about this person or the research. This part has not changed. 
•The Notes are still Private On all trees regardless as to whether your tree is public or private. 
•The Comments: are still Public. 

You will notice a new section called Tags

These are the Tag categories you can use for labeling. 
DNA: matches, connections, common ancestor. 
Reference Tags: Immigrants, Military Service, Royalty—Nobility. 
Research: Hypothesis, Actively researching, brick wall, verified, unverified, complete. 
Relationships: Direct Ancestor, Died Young, Never married, Had no kids, orphan. 

The other new feature they have provided is the ability to Create Groups out of your DNA Matches. And you can now Label & Color Code these DNA Groups any way you like.

As a visual person, I am excited about these new additions, not only will it help to better identify at a glance what is going on with an entry but it will also help organize the matches where you can understand how they fit into our family trees. 

Ancestry also introduced, ThruLines™, which I am still learning how to use. As far as I can see, the more people you have in your family trees and others make their family trees available for viewing, the better the results. From what I understand, it does search out private and public trees alike,  however, the private trees are not visible and you must message the person who owns the tree to compare with their tree. 
I think that for AncestryDNA users with a Member Tree this may help determine how their DNA Matches relate to them and hopefully pinpoint their Common Ancestor.  

I think all of these new additions at Ancestry will prove to be valuable tools. I know one thing for sure.. it will be fun testing them out... now all we need is a little extra time.