There are many things about genealogy which can delight the studious researcher, and just as many which might frustrate. I can tell you from experience of the sheer joy of piecing together some grand puzzle and reveling in the ever expanding tapestry which is my own family tree. Mine, you understand. The ones who lived and died and wove their lives together in a series of events which eventually led down to… me. Traveling to and fro, the occasions of which I have sometimes written down here, have allowed for even the unique pleasure of treading the same ground that my ancestors had settled, warred-over, and cultivated. Someday, perhaps when I have a vast store of money and time, I’ll travel ’round the world to feel the echoes of all of their lives under my feet.
But there are mysteries which may never be solved, vagueries which might never be clarified, and some facts which simply cannot be verified. Such is the unfortunate situation in which I find myself with Thomas George.
Credit where credit is due (and it’s a /lot/ of credit), much of the research which spanned the gap between what I had a year ago and what I have now is entirely due to the persistence and sheer genius of my Pixie-in-law. My grandmother on my father’s side had engaged a genealogy expert some thirty years ago, and he was able to track down her husband’s genealogy all the way back to the Thomas George who crossed the Atlantic from Ireland to America with his children.
This genealogist (I have no idea who he was or what his credentials might have been) had made a minor notation that Thomas George had likely ended up in Ireland after leaving Scotland because his parents had been involved with the Jacobite cause.
My Pixie is the one who (like a bloodhound) put her nose into the tangled and secretive webs of various Scottish heritage enclaves on the internet and discovered records of a Glasgow christening, of a father (and grandfather, and great-grandfather), and of what may turn out to be fantastic genealogy foundations for researching a really solid Scottish connection.
My parents and I will be traveling to Scotland this fall, and I will once again have the privilege of walking in the homelands of my some of my forebearers. I took it upon myself to research (and in some cases, re-research) the places where I know my family once lived, and the causes they may have fought for.
Whether my 9x-great-grandfather was involved in the Risings or not, whether or not his father was in fact born in a town scarcely a stone’s throw from one of the highways between our destinations, and whether or not an Irish McGinnis came from the Scottish MacInnis, I do not know for sure. I hope someday that I will have cold-hard fact and rock-solid verification, but today it doesn’t worry me, and I’ll tell you why.
In researching the Jacobite uprisings, I’ve learned one thing: it was complicated. It wasn’t just Catholic vs. Protestant. It wasn’t just about displaced monarchs. It wasn’t just about Highlanders vs Lowlanders. It wasn’t just the Scots vs. the English. It wasn’t barbarian swords against civilized muskets that decided the fates of nations on Culloden Moor.
Why should my genealogy be any different if it were tangled up in the same time, at the same place, and perhaps with the same causes? It fits, somehow. These things and people are fogged by time, just like the moors on which they were born.
I’ll walk Culloden Moor in a few weeks and see the stones standing to honor the lives of the clansmen which ended trying to put the Bonny Prince on the English throne. The decay of age and the obscurities of genealogy might cloud my view of my ancestors standing on that Highland heather, but the knowledge that it is, was, and will be part of my own personal past is no small thing.
Because that’s what genealogy is: history made real in your own body, bygone eras made relevant by hair color, and heritage passing into legend. Look for me on the moor: I’ll be the one fading back in time as I gaze into the mists of the past.