Going Down Home Timeline

July 2015 Second trip Down Home

October 2014 First trip Down Home

July 2013 to October 2014 Online research and interviews

July 2013 23andme results received

Monday, February 9, 2015

Playing for Duppies

In the 2012 Kevin McDonald documentary, “Marley,” there’s a recounting of how early in their career, Bob Marley and the musicians who would be known as The Wailers gained confidence in their ability to perform in public by playing in cemeteries to spirit inhabitants, duppies. 

Those are tough rooms to play only if you believe that spirits have agency to register their displeasure. 

Beginning a genealogical research project involves a certain amount of playing for duppies.  There’s the time literally spent in cemeteries, yes, but there are other more haunting audiences. 

There’s the expert genealogical community – specialists whose knowledge base can be so very intimidating when we first set out.  Although I have learned more than half of what I know about my family -- and the circumstances of their lives -- from others, and am tremendously appreciative of their generosity, I sometimes feel that the more expert among them are annoyed by my ignorance.

Yet the people who genealogist Renate Sanders calls our genea-friends are in many ways the spirits, the practice audience for our blood relatives, which can be a truly hard room to play.  The distant cousins I’ve met through genetic testing and genealogy Facebook groups have been easier to talk to than the three living first cousins that I haven’t spoken to in decades. 

The genea-friends have been kind spirits, people upon whom we practice our family narratives, who help us get it right, let us know when we’ve played the wrong chord.

When I feel I've gotten it right – can write about how my family lived and stayed in and left that Down Home place, I’m not sure my cousins will like or agree with my interpretation of our history.  But I’ll feel good about how I've gathered and checked and vetted the information before it’s presented to them.  

I'll be glad I lingered for a long time in a quiet place, listening to the critiques of the whispering dead and their living familiars.