Sunday, August 2, 2015

Genealogy Truths

Last week I had the opportunity to attend an educational conference in San Francisco, California. This was my first visit to the area and the first time I ever visited somewhere I had no genealogy research to do.  Ancestorwise,  nada!  No cemeteries, court houses, or former residences to explore.
Since I had only a little time to visit with loved ones who now call the city home and even less time to see the sights, I decided to spend Sunday afternoon absorbing San Francisco as a native would. It was too early to check into the hotel so I left my luggage with the concierge, hailed a cab and asked to be delivered to Mission Dolores, the oldest intact building in the city, founded in 1776 by Father Junipero Serra,  My young taxi driver had no clue where I wanted to go.  I shared with him my printed mapquest as originally, I planned to walk from the hotel but upon arriving later than anticipated, I didn't want to waste time. (I still print direction cause I always have cell issues!)
In 3rd grade I had read about Father Serra although the story is now fuzzy in my brain.  Of course, there are two sides to every story and the childhood version of events that I read was not the whole truth. As a parochial school student I would have read the Roman Catholic version of events.  As a genealogist, I like to look at stories from different perspectives.
Mission Dolores
Father Junipero Serra is remembered as a Roman Catholic priest, philosopher, and mission founder. Those facts are undisputed.  His character, however, is where viewpoints differ.  He is seen by Native American groups as abusive though historians have labeled him as strict instead. Some say he destroyed native culture while others believe he blended it with his own.  Known to beat his breast with a rock and scourge himself at the pulpit, was he mentally ill or just following the practices of his day?  I don't believe it's up to me to pass judgement.
After visiting Mission Dolores I took a bus to Golden Gate Park.  I drove through time - seeing the retro Haight-Asbury, Castro and Presidio districts.  Strangely, I sat next to an actor who 30 years ago lived in the same place I did and I had seen him perform.
Haight-Ashbury - 48 years after the Summer of Love
Running out of time I was unable to visit the California Academy of Science Museum but spent the remaining times at the Botanical Garden. What an awesome place!  I especially enjoyed the redwoods.

These trees remind me that often records are silently left to be interpreted.  A forester can determine the tree's age and weather conditions it experienced by looking at the tree's rings.  Genealogists uncover an old document that may shed light on an ancestor's experiences without directly mentioning the individual by name.  Droughts and floods, recessions and bull markets, along with so many other factors, effect families and influence their choices and decisions.  My trip reminded me I need to keep events experienced by my ancestors in mind to better understand them and to remember I'm peering through my current world view and not that of my forebearers.  



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