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Input and Output

By Daniel Hubbard | October 22, 2017

Genealogy is based on information. No information, no genealogy. The ancestors are still there, but without information, they have faded to invisibility.

We use whatever information we can find to take the next step and build up our knowledge of our ancestors, of our personal past. Sometimes it is not too difficult to piece together the information we find. The documents are there, the DNA matches, and we can reason out the links from statement to statement, document to document, person to person. At some point we can feel confident that we have gone from simple information to knowledge.

Is reaching knowledge enough? For many ancestors, the hazy ones we can barely discern, we are doing well to get that far. For others, knowledge is not so difficult but that knowledge is still sketchy. For others, there is another step that can be taken. We can try to reach understanding.

Understanding is when we can do more than find dates and plot residences on a map. It is when we can extrapolate to thoughts, personalities, and minds. It is when we can see why choices were made, even when we would have chosen otherwise. We understand when cultures, customs, ways of being that are alien to us make sense as environments—maybe not for us, but for our forebears. Perhaps the personality we begin to glimpse seems to fit within its time and place, perhaps it doesn’t. If it doesn’t fit, that may help us understand a difficult life. Sometimes understanding even means that despite what we thought originally, we would in fact, had we worn their shoes, have chosen the same.

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