This "Normal" You Speak of, Sounds Like No Fun at All

People sure are funny. It is not enough for some to have inherited a good name and a unique family history. People want to be special, they want others to know that they are not your average Joe, Josef, Josip, or Jose. No one wants to be “normal” except when it comes to medical test results.

8 of 10 times someone will tell me if they are Native American, that they are related to an “Indian Princess”; I specialize in Japanese ancestry research, so I was surprised to learn that just as many people will say to me that they are related to a Samurai warrior.

Just as people will quickly point out that they had ancestors that were on the Mayflower or are descended from royalty. Satchel Paige once said, Ain’t no man can avoid being born average, but there ain’t no man got to be common.”

Genealogy use to be something the wealthy and powerful pursued. Their supposed “good breeding” was the reason for their superiority and success. The thing is, if we take credit for the good our ancestors did, then logic would then suggest we also have to own the bad they did as well – and trust me there is plenty of both on every tree. 

So what if your ancestors never wrote a book, lead an army or made headlines! Princess Diana said, “Everyone needs to be valued. Everyone has the potential to give something back.” 

When I first started doing genealogy, I admit I wanted to find some famous person to be related to, that perhaps some of that person’s luster had been past on to me. As time has gone on, I have matured in what what I value in my ancestors. I am most proud of those ancestors who have overcome great obstacles like poverty and prejudice. Their courage in facing the unknown, their tenacity in trying to better their lives and those of their posterity are now things I treasure. Most of my ancestors were not famous or well known, but as I have gotten to know their stories, they have all  have become well loved, the good and the bad.

The people who mystify me the most are those who say: 1) they don’t want to know their past because of fear of what they will find out and 2) those who just don’t care about their ancestry. Researching your family history will teach you more about yourself and how to overcome your life’s trials than anything else you do. It will increase your inner well of personal strength and increase your sense of who you are. You will see your own uniqueness, while at the same time value you will rejoice in the common bond you share with other descendants.

We are more than the sum of our lineage. If you have lots of dysfunction in your family, if you come from more louts than those with clout, keep digging – you will find those who are ‘brag-worthy’. More importantly you will learn that we all have the ability to choose when it comes to our behavior, we can decide what to keep and which of those behaviors that will end with us.

We are influenced by the past, but the future is ours to mold. Let us stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before. With a clearer vision of where we came from and a greater determination to leave a legacy that will bless those yet to come.

©2011, copyright Valerie Elkins


  1. I’m having a glass of wine and reading the daily genealogy paper. I came across this post and absolutely love it. I LOVE my ancestors, flaws and all. I have direct line ancestors who ended up in prostitution, committed suicide, and became insane. I LOVE them all — the common thread is that they overcame so much and their determination allowed me to BE! Thanks for this post.

  2. Thank you Kathy. Too many people make a big deal about the famous ancestors and overlook the amazing things we gain from those ‘average’ people who played a huge part in who we are today. Thank you for your comment. Love it!

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