It is hard to believe that I started “The Magellan Project” at least 10 years ago–probably more like 15 years ago! As yet I had never heard of WordPress or blogs, and I was trying my hand then at some feeble excuse of a web site. My original pages had cute little back buttons at the top of every page that said ‘Home, James’ instead of simply ‘Home’. Also included was a page entitled “Back to the Garden” where I had attempted to connect the longest continuous line in my family back to the Garden of Eden with only a few hundred years missed, give or take. Naturally, I had to fill in a lot of stuff for the missing years!
Then in 2002 when I should have been working on a master’s thesis, I ended up writing what I thought would be the beginning of a book on the Fisher-Bolding line. I had only one chapter then, but it was really packed! I finished it the same year my thesis got printed. However, other affairs of life prevented the Fisher-Bolding line from becoming an actual book, and I donated the small work to four different institutions to keep the information from having to be reassembled from scratch by some other pool soul. (One library was good enough to bind it as an actual book and give it a call number.)
The woman who carried the Brockett research into the mid-20th century had hundreds of notes that formed the background of the voluminous book she produced and they were all tossed out by her son when she died! Even now historical records are falling into the hands of an intellectually undisciplined generation that largely neither knows nor cares where it came from and unhesitatingly judges past generations with no context outside itself. As any genealogical sleuth can tell you, there are moments when micro-history exposes the uneven framework of accepted historical opinion.
Genealogists are greatly under-appreciated in most of academia, save for a few souls who begin as another kind of historian and run into a particular need to delve into a subject’s family background. I have seen extensive family histories included in the literature concerning the noted English poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning as well as that of the musical Bassano family of Renaissance England. But this is rare.
However, my research into family matters has never paid me a dime. I’ve always had to carry on at other jobs for my living. Unless I was content to study the lives of others in my spare time and come to the end of my life without having lived myself, I had to give up genealogy (mostly) and be content that I had done my share. One of the genealogists I came across worked on her computer morning, noon and night while her husband died and later as her adolescent son lay dying also. Perhaps it took her mind off of things. Or perhaps because she was a Mormon, she felt a higher purpose in her work. In any case, it sometimes crossed my own mind that had I actually known some of my own ancestors, perhaps I would have taken an instant dislike to them. Maybe I would have even disavowed knowing them!
I ran across cases in my queries where families seemed to bear the scars of sufferings, real or imagined, that had passed down for generations. In one of my more recent lines there had been a family split that was so alienating that I never even met some of my closest relatives who lived mere blocks from me. By happenstance I met second and third cousins from the same line who turned out to be wonderful people with good attitudes, eager to trace down the family tree. We contacted a couple of other cousins from that line who were cordial enough initially but suddenly pulled back. The little information I dragged out of one of them intimated that we were suspected carriers of some family contagion.
I ran into this with other lines, too. I began to suspect that all family lines include descendants who hate being included. Even among living people who grew up with one another, I found siblings who distrusted siblings, cousins who distrusted cousins–because they were one of “them,” and “them” was something to avoid. They were all angry, all ashamed of whatever they had come from, whatever that meant to them. Some of them were in therapy, I’m sure. Others congratulated themselves on having escaped the family orbit, and with this group the unspoken message was always the same: “All those other people are of that family, and only I have escaped.”
In fact, I found that almost none of them had escaped. The magnitude of this hit home when an older cousin who never knew me well once hit me with a slur from out of the blue saying that she should have guessed I would do such-and-such. After all, she said, X-family always did behave like such-and-such. Never mind that both our mothers were siblings from the same X-family. She was sure that I carried the family disease and that she did not. (“I alone have escaped and lived to tell the story–” sound familiar?) I rarely take such commentary seriously any more except in those instances where the family “problem” is truly so monstrous as to warrant intervention.
As someone mentioned recently, no one chooses their mother or father. The door swings both ways, though. Mothers and fathers do not choose their children either. Every baby born into this world has a wealth of potential, but inherently we are all of us little savages at birth who must be civilized. We already know how to find the wrong paths by ourselves–thank you very much–Mom and Dad! The lesson, I hope, is that the soul who counts his siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc., as the Other while excusing himself is incredibly myopic, hypocritical or both. We have none of us escaped anything until we accept that our families did not choose us either and that we alone are responsible for the accumulation of choices we make throughout life. To think otherwise is unfair and unjust.
Having gotten that out of the way, I’m happy that so many are genuinely interested in knowing where they have come from, apart from whether their natural family is “good” or “bad” in their estimation. Many today seem to think the entire world sprang from a vacuum one day. They are destined to reinvent the wheel, repeat history over and over, because they refuse to learn about the past in order to understand the present. But you, my friends, are not of this sort or you would not be here.
I have read many of your comments to one another, and the level of discourse has been so positive. I’m especially happy and proud of the fact that there has not been one incident (to my knowledge) of in-fighting on this site. So many of you have helped one another, and that is the highest I could ever hope for a site that started as a random collection of my notes. I wish this were a completely private site and could guarantee that the bots wouldn’t gather your shared email addresses and things like that. I can’t. But on the other hand, it’s a specialty site where trolls are not so likely to lurk. You might also consider sharing email addresses with spaces in them that can be removed when actually typing them into an address field. This will slow down bot collection of random email addresses.
Now to explain some changes I’ve made. I’ve privatized the pages of a couple of family lines that came from hasty working notes. Even though I have a disclaimer on the page “My Mad Methods,” not everyone will see it. I also have notes on which lines I’ve verified and which have been verified by others. The Bolling line has been verified by what seems like a multitude. The Woodliff line has been verified by a very serious genealogist who happens to be a truly selfless public servant. The Brockett line was verified in something like the 19th century, I believe, and re-verified by a later descendant. The Bassano line has been verified by musicologists and historians, but a multitude of others have connected the line to more recent generations. I myself have gone round and round the verifiable details of that family’s deeper (and sometimes confused) history with other researchers. I have removed two of the more minor and unverified lines that were part of my working notes.
Also, because I manage numerous WordPress sites and because I’m writing under a pseudonym for a couple of them, the change is reflected in sites I didn’t intend to use that name with Unfortunately it appears that there is no longer an option for posting under one name on a site and changing the name on another. This template currently in use for The Magellan Project is one that automatically posts the pseudonym with each post. I was not able to change it back without messing up my other sites. You are reading the words of “Kathryn Brogdon” or “K.L. Brogdon” even though the author line may be different.
As yet, I have not found a way to start a special group on Facebook without creating an unneeded workload for myself (and not everyone wants to be on Facebook). In the meantime, I would suggest that you continue responding to one another on this site. If there is a truly pressing issue that needs to be addressed (such as trouble on the site with someone), then please email me at seapearlmedia @ outlook.com (remove spaces). I will get the email even if I do not look at the site that often. And please remember that usually I cannot answer direct genealogy questions.
Thank you all for being such super readers of a site that never (or rarely) get updated! Good luck to all of you.