Lovable Rogues – Thursday Thoughts

What were your ancestors like? Do you know enough about them beyond birth and death details? Do you know what happened in between? How they faced life’s ups and downs?

photograph of a Pinocchio figure - a lovable rogue. Copyright freeimages.com / Lorenzo GonzalezIn the 2015 BBC television family history programme Who Do You Think You Are? Series 12 the British actor Anne Reid expressed her hope that she might be “related to colourful ancestors”. Indeed she was, as the story unfolds of her great great grandfather who was convicted of forgery and transported to Tasmania.

We love also family stories of ancestors we can be proud to have descended from. In another 2015 episode this was the case for baker and celebrity chef Paul Hollywood who learned of his great, great, great, great grandfather, a postman with no horse, who ran weekly his 120 mile postal route in the Scottish Highlands.

It is a fact of ancestry that there will be ancestors who were perhaps not as reputable as we might hope them to have been. But when we find scoundrels we are not always immediately repulsed. Because we have the fortune of not having known and lived alongside those individuals they can easily become lovable rogues. When we find convicts and unfortunates we are quickly drawn into the human story of their misfortunes. It is often the hope of finding causes beyond our ancestor’s control or redeeming features that might put them in a better light which spur us on to research the circumstances of their lives more deeply.

To some of us it matters very much what our ancestors did with their lives because we feel in some way connected to them by an invisible thread. As a direct but perhaps distant descendant we want to be able to identify the chain of connection through the generations to try and comprehend the direct impact of those ancestral events upon the personality and fortunes of subsequent generations.

When we do find instances of honourable actions or pitiful circumstances our reactions can range on the one hand from deep satisfaction and pride, to dismay, even Schadenfreude and a sense of relief that such things have not befallen us. Sometimes it is a relief to find ancestors whose lives appear to have been very mundane and humdrum.

Does it matter to you what your forebears’ moral or mere mortal standing was? Or does it just make for more interesting after dinner talk to tell of an ancestor who overcame the odds or an epic fail of an ancestral tale?

Hannah., historytrace, 21/01/2016

Do you know enough about your historical family story? Historytrace can help you to explore the humdrum and the roguish elements in your family story. Do get in touch using the Contact page of this website if our services could help you.

You have been reading the historytracings blogpost “Lovable Rogues – Thursday Thoughts”. Copyright text: www.historytrace.co.uk, 2016; copyright image: freeimages.com / Lorenzo Gonzalez.

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