I Wear Tight Genes

Wherein I attempt to relate the trials and tribulations of tracking down information on people who are dead, but bear some resemblance to me...when they were alive.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

How To Be Remembered

People think that heroic deeds are the only thing that gets you recorded by history. I'm here to tell you that I've found evidence that allows for a whole range of activities that will keep you on the books for some time yet. But in order for people in the future to know the real you, and not the guy who lived 3 blocks away from you with a deceptively similar name, then you're going to have to make sure to follow some simple rules for living:

1. When you decide to live in a new country, no matter what your culture's traditions are, do not name yourself after a geologic formation. Not only are you making genealogical research impossible to distinguish you from the 4 other people with your name that had similar birthdays and potentially slept with your wife after you died (yea, I'm looking at you, Joseph), but you make it nigh impossible for your descendants to Google themselves without getting multiple hits on Drayton/St. Thomas/Valley 9 man Region 3 Varsity Football (Go Blue Knights!).

2. If your father's name was Ole, I can't help you. You know that Newhart show, where the characters used to introduce themselves as "This is my brother Darrell, and this is my other brother Darrell"? Well, the Norwegians weren't too far off. I've lost count of the amount of times I've had to keep track of the generations of Ole Olsons. And you can stop that snickering in the back, you Swedes, as you're just as guilty.

3. Speaking of the Scandinavians, I'm sure you're all chortling in your collective mugs of beer over the years and years of folks coming in from the old country and arbitrarily determining what they'd tell people their last names were. I had one researcher with which I was working simply detail every possible name for a Norwegian that was on his list. This included father's name, farm name, region name, name where they got baptized, their 3rd cousin on their mother's side (but only if he was born under a full moon), and so forth. I figure it was some sort of joke passed down through the generations, where Ole and Sven were on the boat figuring out how they were going to mess with the various census takers and immigration officials through the upcoming years. Don't get me started on the variety of original spellings of Knute.

4. Want to become a family legend? Get adopted in Canada, move to America when you're an infant, change your name when you get to 18, and then proceed to live your life telling no one who you really are or where you came from.

Other than these points, if you simply answer the census taker's questions without being "creative", have lots of kids and stay in one place over a great deal of time, I'll have no real problem with you.

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