What we inherit, or, critical analysis

Alicia Crane WilliamsThe seventy-ninth anniversary of my parents’ marriage falls on 30 March 2014. They were married for 71 years before my mother’s death at age 99 years, 6 months, and 9 days in 2006.  Mom was my connection to genealogy. Her mother was the last of her branch of the family and inherited and treasured all of the possessions, lore, and memories that came down to her. They’ve all been passed to me now. My father, on the other hand, didn’t care a fig for genealogy.  He was a first-generation American born to English and Welsh immigrant parents.  Although some of the most interesting stories come out of his side of the family, which I’ll share someday, the Williamses came here to make a new life.  The first in his family to graduate from college, he did it big time at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His degree was in civil engineering and the commission he earned through ROTC got him into the Corps of Engineers in 1935. He served through the Second World War and the beginning of the Korean Conflict before suffering three heart attacks on Okinawa at age 38 and being retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. At that time the doctors gave him five years to live. Dad passed away in 2008 at the age of 97, so don’t believe everything people tell you.  With the upcoming anniversary on my mind, I was reminded of Dad while writing a blog about the “building blocks” of genealogy.  When I was young, the three of us took long trips in our camper across the United States.  Many of them were “dam fine” trips to see the likes of the Hoover Dam. On the often boring drives between man-made monuments, Dad would sometimes quiz me – note, I was not an engineering genius, but one puts up with these things when there is no escape from the car.  “Was that bridge we just went over made with a Pratt Strut or a Warren Strut?” Don’t ask me; I still don’t know. I did absorb an appreciation for good building techniques, however, which brings us back to genealogy. Our building blocks are the three types of documentation – primary, secondary, and circumstantial. The mortar between the blocks is the critical analysis we have to learn to apply through experience. Do we have a genealogy “house” that is made of straw, twig, or brick? I inherit my passion for building a solid genealogy from both parents.

About Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia Crane Williams, FASG, Lead Genealogist of Early Families of New England Study Project, has compiled and edited numerous important genealogical publications including The Mayflower Descendant and the Alden Family “Silver Book” Five Generations project of the Mayflower Society. Most recently, she is the author of the 2017 edition of The Babson Genealogy, 1606-2017, Descendants of Thomas and Isabel Babson who first arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637. Alicia has served as Historian of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, Assistant Historian General at the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and as Genealogist of the Alden Kindred of America. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in History from Northeastern University.

6 thoughts on “What we inherit, or, critical analysis

  1. I lost my 96year old dad less than two months ago. The historian in me is fascinated by thefamily papers going back several genrerations. The daughter in me is overwhelmed by meeting the relatives I thought I knew very well.

    1. Catherine, Rather than say condolences on your loss, I send congratulations for being a good daughter for all these years! Somebody once said that “ancestors” are different from “relatives” — ancestors are dead and easier to deal with.

  2. Enjoy your comments in Vet Brevis articles on facebook. Now in retirement, aged 66 and currently dealing with a broken leg, I have been spending hours on managing my 50+ years of genealogical collections. After having worked on several genealogical books, my decisions has been to manage all my records in an ahnentafel format. Therefore, my most recent work has been writing biographical sketches on my direct ancestors. My very dear friend, the late Janet Ireland Delorey, helped me both get the project started and also to ask and search for the missing data. Recent have been thrilled with your work on he Early New England Families 1641-1700 project. Was particularly pleased to find the Thomas Bulkeley sketch and have melded it with my own research for his biography. Please keep up the great work.

  3. Great article Alicia – so true are your words for the examination of the genealogical houses we build. Indeed, ‘our houses’ must always be put up against the ‘light of inspection’ every so often, as the genealogical house we build may never truly be permament – without a good shoring up from time to time.

    I remember those road trips too – though for me it was dad stopping at every historical marker between here, Kansas City, and beyond. Lord, how we kids did groan from our confines in the back seat at each stop! Yet how grateful I am now that I was asked to witness the history as it was remembered in those roadside markers. Thanks to dad for helping me to appreciate who we are and where we have come from.

    Yet it was grandma who seemed to have all the legends and lines memorized. Those great oral traditions passed down as we sat on the knees of our elders – the things they remembered. The wonderful pride they felt.

    Now it is our turn – to build a sturdy house, to stop and study the road markers we have discovered along the way – and to take pride in the telling of it all.

    I sure appreciate your insight Alicia.
    Kind regards,

    J. Record

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