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Spring Cleaning

By Daniel Hubbard | May 2, 2016

Spring is here and with it, the time for spring cleaning. No one really knows the origin of the tradition. It might be purely practical. In March and April in Europe and North America, there tends to be a time when it is warm enough to really open up the house and get the dust out, but too early in the season for the result to be a house crawling with bugs. Warmer weather also meant that fireplaces, coal furnaces, whale oil lamps… would be used less, and so it was a good time to clean off all the associated soot and grime from the winter. It might be that the tradition of spring cleaning originated in the Jewish custom of cleaning thoroughly before Passover to banish any speck of leavened bread. Perhaps it traces its origins to an ancient Persian custom, still practiced in Iran. Persian “house shaking” is a cleaning ritual practiced in the run up to Iranian New Year, which falls on the vernal equinox, March 21. In China, there is also a tradition of cleaning the house for the new year. Though Chinese New Year occurs well before what I would think of as spring, it is traditionally considered to mark the end of winter.

Whatever the reason we spring clean, it could be a good idea to extend the tradition to our genealogy. It even feels right to extend an old, and perhaps quaint, tradition to help us with out own studies of our past. Take the time to clean out those people we included in our family trees that we are now pretty sure should not be there. If “oopsie ancestors” tend to accumulate in your database like dust bunnies under a teenagers bed, take the time to sweep them away. Dust off those stacks of papers that got shoved aside and are now half forgotten. Go through them, put them in order, and best of all use them. What is in that folder on your computer’s desktop named “genealogy stuff 2011”? spring 2016 might be a good time to find out. There just might be some soot and grime in there.

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