When my husband and I were first married, we were in our final years of college and we lived in an apartment close to the university.  One of our neighbors had an adorable little boy who was about three years old at the time.  Whenever I sat out on our little patio, I could count on a visit from the cute little guy.  I will never forget his steady stream of questions, and how he asked “why” following almost everything that I said.  It quickly helped me to realize just how little I really knew about the world. I have thought about him a lot lately as I have frequently asked myself  “why?”  Why do some people seem to have more to deal with than others?  Why do some seem to get so much more done in a day ?  Why must it snow for three days nonstop?

Martha Olivia Ganus
Martha Olivia Ganus

Although asking “why” for many questions does not produce an answer and is not necessarily even productive, I have found the opposite to be true in genealogy.  It’s in asking “why” that I have been led to some of my greatest finds.

It was in asking “why” John Monroe Ganus and wife Olivia were living in Alabama in 1860 instead of their home state of Georgia, that I learned they were there living among Olivia’s family, and I shared that story in this post. Asking why they were there led me to learn more about my Great Great Grandmother, Olivia’s family, the Rainwaters.  And it was because I wondered “why”  I could not find more about my Gurganus family in Macon that I searched faded, difficult to read, microfilmed court records for hours, which in turn led me to the sad finding of a murder trial involving my family, which I shared earlier.  And, it was in asking “why” Grandma had faintly written in the corner of a little piece of paper, “John M. had a brother Jim that went to Alabama,”  that I began to search for Jim Ganus and that ultimately led me to not only Jim, but Jim’s descendants and I shared what I found in this post.  In addition, a picture of an unknown woman in my Grandpa Ganus’  papers led me to ask “why” her picture was among his few possessions and  led me to information about my Great Grandfather William Franklin’s first wife and their daughter, Martha Olivia Ganus.  I am saving that story to share at a later time.  I have truly learned that with genealogical research, asking the questions helps me to stop and evaluate what I know and what I want  to know and that ultimately leads to new information. 

I have witnessed a fair amount of banter among individuals recently over various issues of genealogical importance and as a result, I have looked at my own research and asked another “why.”  Just “why” am I doing genealogy in the first place and am I on the road that will lead me to my desired goal?  Have I lost site of my original purpose and if so, “why” and what do I need to do about it?   I plan to set some genealogical goals for this coming year and as I do, I certainly plan to evaluate what I do against  “why” I am doing it and hopefully that will help me remain focused, lead me to some great finds and keep me out of trouble.

That curious little neighbor boy from so many years ago has long since grown up to be a man and I am sure that he has his own little children that sometimes ask him “why.”   I am just as sure that he has long forgotten me and has no idea that I often think of him as I ponder issues in my own life and ask  “why?”

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2012

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6 thoughts on “The Whys of It All

  1. Well put, Michelle! Asking questions has often helped open my eyes to connecting the dots, when it comes to relationships. There is always a story behind each connection.

    …which makes me wonder what happened to that little three year old who unwittingly posed the question that got you thinking…

  2. Thanks for your comments Jacqi. It's easy to just fill in the information and move onto the next issue and miss a lot of details and potential leads in the process….at least it is for me.

    I do wonder too about that cute little boy. The fact that I remember him so many years later just tells me that we touch each other's lives more than we think we do, even in the simple things.

    P.S. Sorry about the appearance of your comment Jacqi—I opened things up this morning on my ipad and unintentionlly deleted the comment instead of publishing it and so had to use the email notice I had of your comment to recreate it. Lesson learned!

  3. How wonderful! I've often wondered about my ancestors and questioned what life was like for them and why they chose the directions they did! Just as you are, I am fascinated to learn, understand, and go where they have been…to understnad that very poinant question, 'why'. I'm new to your blog, my uncle, Claude Chambers, pointed you out and I can't wait to read more!

  4. Jennifer, welcome! I'm glad you dropped by and have enjoyed very much exchanging information with your uncle over the years. He does wonderful research.

    I really feel that for every question I answer, two more pop up, but I sure do enjoy the adventure of it all.

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