Conspiracy Part 3

Charles and grandchildren

In Part 2 I wrote about the unintended consequences of attempts to hide information. Abnormal behavior surrounding mundane information gets more attention than a simple answer would have. I talked a little about how DNA exposed another layer of deception in our family. A repeated pattern, like ripples in a pond, the stone that started it all buried deep in the silty lake bottom.

At the heart of both part 1 and 2 are women struggling to make the best of a bad situation. The bad situation was compounded by the rules and regulations of family and society. Despite their efforts to create a new and better reality, the suffering surrounding their decisions ripples out through time.

Eventually the secret itself has the power and the people it was meant to protect become casualties to its will. The dark heart of the deception warps everyone around it in some way.


Part 3: You Call This a Hobby?!

Peaceful park in spring

Peaceful park in spring

For most healthy and well-adjusted people, genealogy begins as a way to put down on paper the things they heard in family stories. It’s a hobby, much like scrap booking or putting together puzzles. You pick it up and put it down. For a lot of people, it’s a life-long joy and a gift you intend to give to your grandchildren. I think most people really start this way and in my own way, I did too. This is a walk in the park, just enjoy it.

Alas, there are those who have been denied. The denial is an affront. It’s a road block or a tiger pit. You didn’t know it was coming, so you never prepared. Once you reach the obstacle, you have to find a way around. The denial brings on a different sort of genealogy. Less of a life-long joy and more of a determined march through a swamp. I think most people end up here at some point on some line of their family. Some people start here too. They have been denied and they need to push hard to get past the obstacle in their way. The hobby starts to be more like “work”.

I hit this stage too, very early on. For me, the hard push to get past the denial eventually took the shape of DNA testing.

sensitive fern swamp (photo by Dan Sperduto)

sensitive fern swamp (photo by Dan Sperduto)


If you push, you may uncover an intentional conspiracy. I am definitely not alone here. Not by a long shot. I know a lot of people who have their own conspiracies to deal with. For them and for me, it has not been a hobby for a long time. At this point the determined march through a swamp becomes a daily grind through dense jungle. You have to start swinging a machete to cut through the bush. You’re fevered and bone tired, but you just keep swinging hoping to make some passage through the tangled vines. Your maps and records are no good here, this is uncharted ground. Continuing this way is painful, but you’re too terrified to stop in case this one last swing might bring you to a path and a warm fire.

south of the border


If you’re lucky like me, you may have DNA as a sort of compass, but compasses only point north. They don’t tell you where the warm fire is. You realize, as you stand there sweaty and filthy with a machete and a crazed look in your eye, that you cannot do this alone. But, who will help you now that you’re a maniac lost in the jungle?

So, there are my characterizations of some of the “environments” of genealogy. I’ve attempted some metaphorical examples of how the simple, joyful hobby of genealogy can become a bitter struggle to reclaim the facts.  The environments that genealogists are working in, can be nice and easy-going or downright hostile and that deserves some recognition.

I think people who can move between them, will, depending on  the current level of their morale and the direction their lives are taking. Sometimes it’s nice to go back to the walk in the park and pick some low hanging fruit. Sometimes you actually make it to the other side of the swamp and find things a lot easier when you get there. Other times you may find the intentional conspiracy.

Some people start right off in the jungle and can’t move back to some easier more comfortable landscape. Their map is totally blank. Those of us with only a few deceptions and road blocks are really the lucky ones.

Although it seems dire when you’re lost and madly slashing around looking for a path, I have seen that some people make it out of the jungle of conspiracy too.

Next up: The conspirators.