Today, October 21, 2015, is Back to the Future Day! Why? Because in the iconic sequel, Back to the Future Part II, Marty McFly and Doc Brown hop in their DeLorean time machine bound for a date far in the future – October 21, 2015. Wow, one can only imagine the impact such a machine would have on genealogy. We would go forward in time to see how things turn out. But we would love to go back and see how things really were. No more brick walls! We would confirm all lineages and solve all puzzles. But would it be as much fun, I wonder.
A time machine, especially a snazzy one in the form of a stainless steel DeLorean, would certainly make life a lot easier for a genealogist. Instead of spending years retrieving documents for the purpose of hunting down an illusive ancestor, one could just go back and ask, “Hey great great grandma, where exactly were you born and what are your parents’ names?” But that would be too easy. It might even eliminate the need for the unique fact-finding skills of a crack genealogist altogether.
Nonetheless, we get a glimpse of what it might be like to meet your ancestors in Back the Future Part III when Marty McFly ventures back to 1885 and ends up in the home of his Irish immigrant great grandparents. As a genealogist watching the film, I wanted Marty to ask great grandparents for details about their lives back in Ireland and their journey west to California. I thought such a fantasy was a strange pragmatic impulse. I wondered why I didn’t think of trying to invest in all the right stocks and bonds!?! But I believe any true genealogist would, like me, take the opportunity to flesh out the family history. Whatever floats your boat, I guess.
If I had a time machine and 1.21 gigawatts of power in my flux capacitor, I’d love to track down a few ancestors and spend some time clearing up ambiguities for the record. For example, my own Irish third great grandmother, Sabina Burke, and her German-born husband, my third great grandfather, Henry Handorf, come to mind. I have a million questions to ask them about their lives, origins, and ancestors, and what prompted them to set out for America. On the Italian side of the family, a journey in the time machine back to 1857, may help uncover the names of the parents of my third great grandmother, Maddalena Mironi, who was abandoned as an infant in Siena, Italy. (Of course, I might also look into some stocks and bonds.)
The work of a genealogist is never done. But on this special day, Back to the Future Day, I dream of a time machine that breaks down the brick walls and makes it all come together. How convenient and…how boring.
In the real world, we rely on sound genealogical strategies and research techniques. Many difficult questions require diligent and thorough efforts on the part of the researcher. It’s solving the most challenging mysteries about our ancestors that ends up being the most memorable and what appeals most to me about genealogy. My time machine is made up of archives, public libraries, and other respositories. It leads me painstakingly from the future back to the past.
Happy Back to the Future Day!
-Mary M. Tedesco, ORIGINS ITALY.