Ancestry Geek

I wanted to know my roots.  The people who ARE my family are so very amazing and interesting, I could not help but want to know.  It began with an on-line album that I made for my parents some time ago.  I felt really proud that I had managed to gather photographs and stories about my immediate family and to put them together in such a way that we might all, presently and down the road, enjoy looking back.  That first book contains a recipe for Mom’s bunny cake…the one she created for us when we were growing up, every single Easter.  Creating a history for the ones you love is a joy.

Woolen Mill

They lived off of the front of a woolen mill, the only one in all of Western Canada.  The evening we arrived at the Magrath Wool, Card and Spinning Mill, was the first time I had ever met my grandparents.  It was a one bedroom apartment with a curtain strung for a bedroom door.  To the right of the front door was a small office with papers and invoices heaped high on a huge oak desk.  Some old black and white photographs were pinned to the bulletin board.

To the left, a living room opened up, with a sofa set before a half wall that was easily called the Wiley Coyote-Couch because every evening after work, Grampa would sit for the cartoons with as many grandchildren as possible nestled around and about him.  The half-wall revealed on the other side, the kitchen where most of the visiting would happen.  My Gramma was the nucleus of this portion of the home.  I still remember her, without dentures, eating a slice of white bread slathered with butter and sprinkled with white sugar.  The sound of her laughter and the appearance of her crinkled face stay with me.

Deep into the living room was a second sofa, this one was a pull-out bed.  My parents would sleep there.  Beside the sheers on the living room window, grew a huge Christmas cactus, dust woven in and out of its myriad of branches.  There was a small electric organ in front of the same large picture window and Gramma would play Aura Lee and Going Home and make my father weep.

The evening we arrived, Gramma met us all at the front door, squealing.  It seemed my father held onto her forever.  She had one of those cover-up aprons on, more like a duster…it was covered in golden flowers and was as soft as can be.  Grampa was called in from the mill…Gramma called him, lovingly, Jack.  Whenever he made his way into the kitchen from the mill, his first gesture was to lift his suspenders up and over his big shoulders.  When he smiled his eyes always filled with tears, it was just the way it was.  He smelled of this wonderful scent of raw wool and wore little pieces of grey and white fluff in his hair and on his clothing.  I loved these two with my whole heart.

The sight of my grandparents for the first time, was indeed, a little taste of heaven.  Having lived on the move so much, it was those memories that I would grow to hold onto and keep in the treasure box of my soul.


September 17, 2011

I guess I haven’t quite figured out how to write more on any one of these pages.  One of the notes I received from a relation recently said precisely this:

“But for some of us, we just don’t want to hear any more about what happened SO LONG AGO.  THE PAST IS THE PAST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I’ve pondered this and now have let it go, but just this morning, I discovered this site and one of the articles is so darned helpful to me.  I’m going to include it here and hope for forgiveness from the writer.  The text in red is to be given credit to Allen Mendenhall.

Foucault’s Nietzschean Genealogy

In Art, Arts & Letters, Historicism, History, Humanities, Literary Theory & Criticism, Philosophy, Politics, Rhetoric, Western Philosophy, Writing on September 17, 2011 at 10:02 am

Allen Mendenhall

“Genealogy […] requires patience and knowledge of details, and it depends on a vast accumulation of source material.  Its ‘cyclopean monuments’ are constructed from ‘discreet and apparently insignificant truths and according to a rigorous method’; they cannot be the product of ‘large and well-meaning errors.’  In short, genealogy demands relentless erudition.  Genealogy does not oppose itself to history as the lofty and profound gaze of the philosopher might compare to the molelike perspective of the scholar; on the contrary, it rejects the metahistorical deployment of ideal significations and indefinite teleologies.  It opposes itself to the search for ‘origins.’”

                                      —Michel Foucault, from “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History”

This brief passage by Foucault has three references to Nietzsche.  The essay from which the passage is drawn demonstrates Foucault’s immense debt to Nietzsche, citing as it does no other thinker but Nietzsche (save for a fleeting reference to Paul Ree, whose term “Ursprung,” or “origin,” Nietzsche adopts).  Of all Nietzsche’s ideas and practices, genealogy is the one that Foucault cultivates most impressively.  Genealogy is a methodology by and with which one documents or tracks the development of ideas and their relation to human organization.  In other words, genealogy traces knowledge to its systemic formations across various networks of discourse.  That is why genealogy “requires patience” and “depends on a vast accumulation of source material.”  It is a process, and processes take time to work out. 

Genealogy does not recover origins because origins are not recoverable.  Origins are fluid, not fixed; they are not, strictly speaking, origins at all—if, that is, “origins” is taken to mean single, absolute causes or definite, immutable sources.  Rather, for Foucault, “origins” is a term of convenience—perhaps strategically essentialized—referring to sets of beliefs and activities that constitute discursive structures mobilized by numerous truth claims.  That is why Foucault can employ the term “origins” in one sentence and then, in a subsequent sentence, seemingly reverse course by calling origins “chimeras.”  The point is not to define or explain origins; the point is to discredit the idea of origins as self-evident and immanently knowable. 

Origins themselves are inaccessible; the emergence and development of structures based on ideas, however, are not only accessible, but also edifying.  Foucault’s genealogy, therefore, seeks to collect data about numerous truth claims and then to explain how these data form and shape culture.  As Foucault says of genealogy, “It opposes itself to the search for ‘origins.’”  Note the quotation marks around “origins.”  Those marks suggest an intent to divest that term of its expressive purchase.  Origins are knowable only as points of loss or complication, only as intricate and multifaceted constructs that, when examined closely, signify multiple and heterogeneous phenomena and that thus enable and sustain further inquiry.     

Genealogy is not about looking backward to legislate to the present age or to validate certain attitudes and viewpoints.  It is about analyzing the ways in which attitudes and viewpoints arise and function.  It is about how systems of belief inscribe and imprint themselves on the human body, how discourse bears a direct relation to individuals and their regulation by society.  Genealogy is not prescriptive; it’s descriptive.  Rejecting a telos, it seeks to understand the function, not the merits, of discourse formation.  “Genealogy demands relentless erudition,” Foucault submits, and erudition, such as it is, depends upon an understanding of myriad, related events: their changing, unfolding, becoming, stumbling, surfacing, failing, and maneuvering.  In short, genealogy excavates from the past whatever evidence is available to shed light on the construction of classifications and arrangements of knowledge.

9 thoughts on “Ancestry Geek

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  2. Kath I so Love reading your truths. I can picture everything and each time I feel a lump in my throat and my heart and soul are somehow moved.

  3. I feel the same way as Grace! I remember my Grandpa telling me stories about his sister Grace and other relatives, He sure did love his family. I was so blessed to have lived around and with him for all those years. He taught me to play checkers and we did watch cartoons together. He loved the road runner and hated those meeses to pieces!!! 🙂

    • He is with us all the time, for those moments that he shared with us. Remember the way he carried with him that sublime scent of wool…I can’t smell a wool sock without thinking about our grandpa. Love you, Carol.

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  5. You write so eloquently. My father in law Robert was John’s brother. We didn’t know much except that John lived out west. We frequently met with his sister Grace, who was a beautiful person. Also got together with Betty occasionally until the family moved further west. We called Robert, Bob. He was a very calm and remarkable person. He walked everywhere and spoke to anyone in the city. I have very fond memories of him. History is what makes us. I enjoyed reading about John.

    • So, Jacqueline, I recently connected with my cousin, Charlene via this blog…do you two know one another or did you just end up finding this blog another way? I am so excited to meet you. Bob visited my parents in North Bay, Ontario when Mom and Dad were stationed there. Grampa Moors loved his brother very much! I’d love to write to you. Would you send a message via my e mail or ? Thank you so much. I would like to get permission to share your perspective on my blog about Great Uncle Bob.

    • OH!!! You are Charlene and Sarah’s Mom!!! YEAH!! I’m over the moon about these connections over this holiday. Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year, Jacqueline! Amazing miracles of social media! Charlene is like an angel to me because for the very first time, our family has seen a photograph of our patriarch in uniform! John’s remaining children…John (my Dad), Eleanor, Ruth and Mary will be and are over the moon!

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