Thursday, May 21, 2015

Are You Proud of Your Ancestors?

Are you proud of your ancestors? I think most people are proud of the majority of their ancestors. At worst, we just don't know enough about them but if they had the courage to pick up and move to America, I think we'd be proud of them. But what if they were outlaws? Thieves? Slave owners?

I believe we have every right to be proud of things our ancestors accomplished. Of course, you can't take credit for what they accomplished but you can be proud of them. In the same vein, you can't take the blame for the things they did wrong. Recently, movie star Ben Affleck was the subject of the PBS show "Finding Your Roots". As part of their research, it was found that one of Mr. Affleck's ancestors owned slaves. While it's not something to be proud of, it's not something that he could do anything about.

The problem is what he did when he found out. He actually requested that Henry Louis Gates hide his embarrassing ancestor. In my opinion, I'd be more embarrassed at Mr. Affleck's actions than the fact that he had a slave-holding ancestor. Just as you can't take credit for your ancestors' actions, you can't take the blame either.

I have at least one family in my ancestry that did things I'm not proud of. However, just because I'm not proud of them, it doesn't mean I don't find it fascinating and want to learn more. I am very interested in the lives of my Doran ancestors. The children of my great-great-great-grandparents, Thomas and Kitty (O'Hara) Doran contained an unwed mother (my great-great-grandmother), someone who got killed in a drunken brawl, and someone who liked whiskey and cards so much it got him involved in a fight that resulted in him killing another man and eventually resulted in his own death in a shootout. A newspaper article about the drunken fight notes that the family was known to cause trouble.

Am I proud of this family? No. I do find it very interesting and I really want to find out more about them, just as I want to find out more about the rest of my ancestors. The big difference is that it's pretty difficult to find details of the day to day life of someone who didn't draw attention to themselves. We tend to find a lot of detail about those that did draw attention.

I don't know about you, but I want all the details I can find about my family. The good, the bad and the ugly.


1 comment:

  1. The Ben Affleck incident has resulted in PBS delaying the third season of Finding Your Roots and questioning whether or not a fourth season will be made. This is a wonderful show and it's sad that one movie star, insisting that the show hide his slave-owning ancestors, has put it in jeopardy. I believe Henry Louis Gates when he says they just chose to focus on another, more interesting part of Affleck's ancestry. I also believe that Affleck now has the correct attitude toward his ancestry. However, he was the one that started the cover-up and no matter what he says now, he was the one that put the show's integrity into doubt.