Genealogy is brilliant. Some people think that it is not brilliant, but they are wrong. It is.
What genealogy is, is finding out who your real parents are. And then who their real parents are, or were, if they are dead now, and then who your real parents’ real parents’ real parents were, and so on ad infinitum until you get back to monkeys. Monkeys do not have the institution of marriage, so at that point it falls down. They did not keep records.
You are probably already reading this and being enthused. This is probably because you always wanted to find out who your real parents were. The scientific evidence is pretty clear that 75 percent of the British population is either adopted or the result of sexual intercourse. So the people you think of as your parents are almost definitely not. Or at least one of them. This does not mean they have been lying to you, only that one of them has. And even she might not know who your real father is if she put it about a lot.
One thing that puts people off the genealogy is all the research. Because, if you think about it, you have two parents, that you know of, and each of those parents also has at least two parents, which means that you already have at least a minimum of four grandparents, and you may not necessarily get on with all of them, and the one you loved the most is dead. Which means that, if you are going to make a video about it, like the television series Who Do They Think They Are?, you’re going to have to interview the grandad you hate, the one who swears and has yellow hair from nicotine and smells of bonfires and fish. The one who calls you Keith. And then also, beyond that, you must then have had eight great grandparents, all of whom you will have to research to find the one who was interesting, and sixteen great great grandparents, and this is only three generations back and all your summer holiday is already wasted. But you’ll be damned if you’re going to give up before you find a better relative than Michael Williams’s great great uncle, who was Sherlock Holmes.
Genealogy is particularly interesting if you are a man or interested in men, because most of our ancestors are men. It is a well-established fact that men have more sexual partners in their lifetimes than women do, and therefore it stands to reason that 1) men will have more descendants than women and 2) you are more likely to be related to a famous man than a famous woman. As well as this there is the additional fact that more women than men die in childbirth, which means that many of your female ancestors will have died prematurely, either as the mother or as the baby. This not only means that the fewer female ancestors are reduced in number even more, but also that a lot of women in the past had less of an opportunity to become famous because they either had children, or they died in childbirth, or their mother died during childbirth, leaving them as an orphan, or at the very least with no female role model to look up to. And even if they had a mother to look up to as a role model, she was unlikely to be famous because she had children to look after.
This is not to say that there is nothing in genealogy of interest to women. If you watched the TV series Who Do They Think They Are?, several women were in it. Usually it was a famous woman, which only proves my point, elaborated on above, but there were other women too, such as librarians and translators. Both librarians and translators are central to helping people trace their roots and find the famous men they were related to. Also, if you are a man, genealogy is a good way of meeting non-threatening women, such as librarians and translators. You have a ready-made excuse for talking to them and you can impress them with your knowledge of things.
What You Will Need
To do genealogy you will need a pen, a pencil, a notepad, a Thermos flask filled with hot chocolate or Bovril, a Tupperware box with sandwiches in, and a cagoule. My mother makes my sandwiches. Usually they are Marmite or peanut butter, but sometimes she gives me a surprise and puts luncheon meat on instead. You will also find that the library will not let you eat your sandwiches or open your Thermos flask in the library and you will have to stand outside or sit on a bench in the bus station. This is why you need the cagoule.
Next you will need the names of your relations, which you must look up in the local library. First, go to the library and see if they have any record of you. If they have not, then you are stumped, really. Unless you have a copy of your birth certificate, on which you will find who you are, where and when you were born, and who your parents are. You can get a copy of your birth certificate by going to the photocopy shop in town, where they will make a copy of it for you.
Once you know who your parents are, you must repeat the procedure again, and the same for their parents and their parents’ parents and so on. Sometimes you will not be able to locate the identity of one of your ancestors from the library, so then you must go online and use the Census records, which is brilliant, because you can do that yourself without ever having to talk to anyone. I like to look up all the people in Great Britain called Hitler. Or Arsebandit. Once I found a man born in Stirchley in 1877 called Michael Bublé. This was seven years ago, though, before anyone knew who he was, so I didn’t tell anybody. It’s too late now.
If the Census or library is of no use, you must go to the relevant church authorities because a great many births, marriages, deaths, divorces, adulteries, and murders were recorded in the local parish registeries. In the olden days, the vicars were the main source of gossip and spying, so they could tell you everything about everyone. Most churches still have the vicars’ diaries going back to the Middle Ages, but they won’t admit to having them or show them to you unless you’re willing to cough up a few hundred quid. But come back in a couple of weeks and the current incumbent will show them to you and you’ll be amazed at the legibility of the typing. Even from 700 years ago.
Eventually you will discover that you were related to somebody famous, and your research will all have been worthwhile. If you do the mathematics, everyone in Britain is related to either a famous aristocrat or a famous murderer, or, in the case of the royal family, both. You have to be careful what conclusions people will draw from your relation though. It is no good being related to rich people from the past if you are now a pauper because it means somebody in your genes squandered the lot and you are now a degenerate downwardly mobile low-life. If, on the other hand, you are from a long line of plebs and peasants but are now very comfortable thank you very much, people will say you have ideas above your station. In the course of my research, I discovered that I am directly related to Robert Kilroy Silk. I told Michael Williams this, and he just said, “That figures.” I assume he meant that we have the same rugged good looks and healthy pallor.
There. I hope that you will do genealogy now that I have shown you how good it is.
And that is the end.
Kevin MacPherson is the illegitimate king of France.