Would You Recognize Your Ancestor on the Street?

I saw an old acquaintance recently and didn’t recognize them.  No, it was worse thantophat that.  I didn’t have a clue who they were when the started talking to me.  It gets worse, when I got home I looked for them in the event publication that we attended together in a business training retreat and even with their name didn’t recognize them.

They stood next to me in the group photo.  They were my partner during a training presentation.  They signed the publication with a note saying how much they enjoyed meeting me and spending time with me in the training projects. 

Maybe my memory is failing this week.  Maybe it will restore with a software reset when I next get a full nights sleep.  Hopefully ……

The point of this story is that I spend the better part of five days with this person twenty years ago and have forgotten them.  Would you or I recognize our ancestors if we saw them walking toward us on the street?  

We’ve seen their photos in our genealogy records for years.  We even use their images as avatars or part of our avatar so their visage isn’t something we’ve seen in the distant past.

I’ve often wondered if the image of them that I’ve created in my mind has any resemblance to what they looked like in life and if their personalities were anything like the pristine ‘good person’ personality I’ve created in my mind.

In my mind, my 2nd great grandfather was as tall as me but that image was shattered when I visited his home.  An old letter talked about that home and noted that my grandfather was so tall he had to duck to get through the opening into the kitchen but that no one else in the family had to do so.  Grandpa must have been really tall! 

And then I walked through the same opening.  I had to duck to get through .. a LOT.  If my grandfather only had to duck and his father didn’t have to duck at all then the image of him in my mind was exaggerated by at least 6 inches.   I’m 6’ 1”.  He must have been 5’ 5” or less.  I wouldn’t have recognized him walking down the street.  Even knowing he was coming, I’d have been looking for a much taller man.

Have you ever wondered what your ancestors looked like in person?  Do you wonder about their personalities?  What their voice sounded like?  Did they really like liver and onions?  Did they laugh a lot or were they fairly stern?  Would you want them as friends if they were here with us now?

I suppose our descendants will wonder the same things about us.  My grandkids already think I’m nuts or at least they think most of my jokes aren’t that great and that when we sing Happy Birthday to them, some of the joy is taken out of it as I routinely wander through the scales to find a note that is in the same ballpark as the true melody.  Of course, they’ll remember that about me… the goofy singing, the goofy jokes, the tickles.  

How will they convey those memories to their grandchildren?   Would they recognize me walking down the street?   Maybe I’d better be sure to include some of my oddities and personality quirks in my life history so they at least know that I loved butterscotch and popcorn.  

How about you?   Will your descendants have an accurate image of you in their minds or will it just be the one created in their imagination?

Just to prove a few tweaks to the face and outline of a person can cause our visual recognition to fail, enjoy this video of the singer, Jewel, as she disappears in plain sight.

Undercover Karaoke with Jewel
Copyright (c) Lee Drew 2013-01-28 07:00:00
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Family history research is a favored avenue of relaxation. It is a Sherlock-like activity that can continue almost anywhere at any time. By leveraging a lifetime involvement in technology, my research efforts have resulted in terabytes of ancestral data, earning me the moniker of Lineagekeeper. And yes - We are all related to Royalty.