Genealogy has been my hobby for the past thirty years. I'm way beyond average hobbyist and have been teaching people how to search for their lineages for the past 15 years or so.
How serious am I about my hobby? I really pains me to come across some obnoxious bore, who when they discover that we have a mutual interest in genealogy feels compelled to tell me how many THOUSANDS of people in their charts - or, and this my personal favorite - that are descended from Jesus Christ or Charlemagne. As if it were true, or anyone cared.
I've been doing this long enough to know that listening to someone else's noble family tree is a lot like listening to someone drone on about how great their sex lives are. Its exciting to them, but dental work is more fun then listening about someones 67 great grandfather who was Pharaoh's favorite.
But, in thirty years I met have hundreds of people who are wonderful giving people, and for that, its worth it. There is something special in being able to help someone fill a hole, or plug a gap when they hit a wall and can't get further than they are.
I would say that the hobby has been universally rewarding. However a couple years ago I stumbled upon two elderly women from California that were as inherently evil and cruel as all the other people combined were wonderful and giving. And today one of them reared their evil little heads.
Four years ago I connected with a distant cousin on one of my mother's lines. We met, we compared notes, and when going through some paperwork she found a hand written note from her great Aunt, who was not only a friend of my grandparents, but a second cousin of my grandfather. When I was small she was Mrs. Kennedy - it wasn't until I started digging around the family tree that I saw how she was related. When I asked my mother, her standard explanation was "It was a farming community - most everyone was a cousin."
Well, Mrs. Kennedy had mapped out a family tree of her great grandfather, who was also my great great great grandfather. In that map there was one name that we had never seen before - a daughter that we had verified on US Census records for 1840, but a daughter whose name was unknown. You see, prior to 1850, only the head of the household was enumerated - everyone else was simply a hash mark in an age range. And when you dealing with women before 1850's enumeration, good luck with that unless there is a will or family documents of governmental records.
Anyway, Mrs. Kennedy's notation gave us a name - "Mary Marta, married 1851 to Andrew Smith (not his real name)- one daughter Alis." Well for someone like me, that alone was like hitting the mother load. In no time I found the find the marriage license and I had a trail to follow.
This is were things got weird.
On a web site message board I started asking people if they had this Smith fellow who left here and went "there". One of the people who answered my query was a grandmotherly type from California. We shared information, and she kept stating that she and her cousin had trace So and So Smith to Virginia, and that my information was incorrect. I knew it wasn't, so I provided her with the facts. Again, she claimed that my information was incorrect, and again, I stood my ground. Then this elderly cousin of hers from California emails me and asks what my interest is and which Smith I am descended from. So I tell her that my interest isn't Smith, its his wife, and that it is the wife who is my (distant) relation.
Well, this my friends is where the shit hits the fan.
All of a sudden these two start playing mind games - they have my information but they won't share it because I have upset them. Hello? I write back that I am confused - what did I say? What did I do? The younger of the two women writes me to say that the elder cousin never wants to hear from me again, and that the younger woman will give me what I want if I promise never to contact them again.
So I don't contact them.
This sets these two off again. The elder of the two sends me a damning message telling me that I have impugned her integrity ancd how rude I am for not answering them. I step away from the crazy woman. Then another email follows, this time she apologizes for the misunderstanding. "Since we are adults, could you share with me how this interests you." So since the crazy OLD woman asked, I again explained that I am not a Winder, that it is his first wife I want to know about. I explained how I found the note from Mrs. Kennedy and how I am simply trying to find information on this wife.
Well, before you can say "here we go again", thats exactly what happens. The younger of the two cousins send me an email about how she is going to her son's law office to copy the information I am seeking in hopes that I will never again contact them. "Both my cousin and I old and not in good health and we just can't take these emails any longer." Hello, again.
The woman emails a page from a family bible with the name and dates that I am looking for and I thank her.
Then I send the older cousin an email saying that I'm really confused, because I thought "we were all adults..." yada yada yada, and if she didn't want to hear from me, why she simply didn't tell me that before she started with the "we're all adults."
And what comes to me in email from here is one of the most profanity laced, hate infused emails. Reader, I tell you that in 30+ years of this hobby I have never seen anything like this.
Evidently what set this harridan and her cosuin off is that I wasn't impressed with their research on someone that I never knew about. How's that for crazy?
Honestly, dealing with these two must be what it feels like when you jab a knife in an electrical outlet. Sometimes you miss, but sometimes you get on hell of jolt.
So I walked away from this a little smarter. Shell shocked but smarter.
And I hadn't thought about these crazies until today when I logged into Ancestry.com come and saw where the younger crazy had been snooping around in my tree, copying information from my work into hers on the woman that I was looking for all those years again.
I've spent hours and hours looking for the documentation on Alis and her husband, their sons, grandchildren and the like. And I have connected with the heirs - all of them lovely people, all of them excited at what I sent them, and two of the heirs still write at Christmas with their findings.
So when I saw this woman, copying the information I worked to find, I felt a bit angry.
When you spend years looking for someone, studying the documents, piecing the puzzle together, you feel a bit of ownership. And these two were so horrid to deal with - so dismissive of Alis and her mother that I feel that they have started in on something that shouldn't concern them.
But if I guard that research and begrudge them of that line, am I not as bad as they are?