So, I’m watching that “Who Do You Think You Are?” show on NBC on Friday. I really like it. It’s all the rage, again ... to trace your ancestors. The last time this craze was so hot was about forty years ago when me and my wife and the whole country was mesmerized by the mini-series “Roots.” It got everybody’s blood running … backwards to see where they came from.
Back then it was much harder to do. There was no internet or Ancestry.com, or … well, there were the Mormons. There are always the Mormons. Alex Haley had the dickens of a time tracing his mother’s family back to Africa. Today it seems so simple and easy. Just sign up on the website, pay your money and it’s off to the races, the human race.
My father was Austrian-Hungarian. My mother was 100 percent Italian. Pretty cool. So I get out my credit card and start to sign up for my great journey back in time. Heck! I could be related to Michelangelo or Franz Liszt. Then again, there’s the Borgias and … Vlad The Impaler!
It’s fun to watch a celebrity on that show find out that she is actually 727th in line to the Swedish throne, or a princess 317 times removed. But all the romance and charm of such a moment never seems to make up for the sheer horror in the eyes of another searcher who just found out that his great, great grandfather was a slave owner.
I think we’re all adopted kids, wondering if our real parents are actually movie stars or royalty, when actually, our parents, birth or adopted, are who they are and we are who we are.
That’s good enough.
In the end, finding out that you’re related to Albert Einstein doesn’t make you any smarter today than you were yesterday when you stepped on that rake in your garden. And if I find out that I’m related to Hitler – that Austrian dude – I won’t let it fester in my mind, causing me to doubt that I am, inherently, a good person.
Save your money. Cultivate the family you already know about: Teach your children to do the right thing and treat everyone else’s families with dignity and respect. And a hundred years from now, when one of your descendants starts climbing your family tree, you won’t have to worry when he reaches your branch.