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Sorry, but family history really is bunk
The Spectator ^ | 30th April 2008 | Leo McKinstry

Posted on 05/08/2008 3:18:15 PM PDT by forkinsocket

Leo McKinstry says the current craze for genealogy reflects an unhealthy combination of snobbery and inverse snobbery, and is a poor replacement for national history

When I visited the National Archives at Kew last week the place was full of them, scurrying about with their plastic wallets in hand, a look of eager concentration on their faces. It was impossible to escape their busy presence as they whispered noisily to relatives or whooped over the discovery of some new piece of information.

These were the followers of one of Britain’s fastest-growing craze, the mania for researching family history. Studying bloodlines and tracing ancestral roots was once the preserve of the aristocracy. Today, as I saw at the National Archives, it has become a favourite activity of the British public. We are becoming a nation of obsessive genealogists. According to a recent study by the polling organisation YouGov, 28 per cent of British people have tried at some stage to trace their family tree, and 10 per cent of the population are currently doing so. It is said that genealogy websites are the most commonly visited on the internet after pornography. The website Genes Reunited, which claims to be ‘the UK’s number one family tree and genealogy site’, boasts that it has no fewer than eight million members. Another major web company, Find My Past, says that it has a registered usership of 1.32 million people and a mailing list of almost 600,000.

Ten years ago, there was just one mainstream genealogy magazine. Now there are seven. Another indicator of this fixation with family history is the phenomenal success of the BBC series Who Do You Think You Are?, whose weekly episodes feature different celebrities tracing their roots.

(Excerpt) Read more at spectator.co.uk ...


TOPICS: Culture/Society; United Kingdom
KEYWORDS: america; ancestors; carolina; colony; confederatedemocrats; dna; family; genealogy; geneology; godsgravesglyphs; guncontrol; history; ireland; scotland; uk
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To: count-your-change
Prole, proletarian=the lower classes, commoners

industrial wage-earner:
in Marxist theory, a member of the industrial working class whose only asset is labor sold to an employer

Oh! I didn't get it because America has never had that until the illegal aliens arrived.

51 posted on 05/08/2008 3:58:29 PM PDT by donna ("Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.")
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To: Biblebelter
Don't give up so easy. John McCain is an older man. He was a POW for many years in his youth. His ancestors did not live long lives. Even now John's memory is slipping. He's forgotten his promise about getting the border under control FIRST. Many of us think this is a sign of impending cardiovascular failure in major blood vessels in his brain.

There's a doggone good chance that you'll find the Republicans needing to select a candidate at the convention.

See you at the polls!

52 posted on 05/08/2008 3:59:51 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: forkinsocket

Not to mention that as the UK has become such a hodge podge of multi-cultural stew, it is not such a big leap to imagine that people begin to finally the heritage they have forfeited for politics.


53 posted on 05/08/2008 4:00:50 PM PDT by School of Rational Thought (Truthism Watch)
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To: MamaB

On one side of my husband’s family they don’t want to admit that they have any Mexican blood but they still have the Mexican Land Grant nor will they admit to the Native American which makes him a full quarter Native American considering his paternal and maternal blood lines.

I agree that it is something to be proud of but there really have been times when it was best not known but that has passed. All 4 of my grandchildren have those black Mexican/Indian eyes even though 2 of them are blondes.


54 posted on 05/08/2008 4:02:32 PM PDT by tiki (True Christians will not deliberately slander or misrepresent others or their beliefs)
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To: forkinsocket

Not to mention that as the UK has become such a hodge podge of multi-cultural stew, it is not such a big leap to imagine that people begin to finally appreciate the heritage they have forfeited for politics.


55 posted on 05/08/2008 4:03:23 PM PDT by School of Rational Thought (Truthism Watch)
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To: YCTHouston

I’m not reading 2 paragraphs of his drivel.


56 posted on 05/08/2008 4:04:09 PM PDT by darkangel82 (If you're not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. (Say no to RINOs))
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To: Gondring
My greatest frustration in doing genealogy was the discovery that many (most?) people doing it have very low standards of evidence. Much of what's been done is useless, as it's based on wishful thinking, guesswork, etc., seemingly fueled by things mentioned in the article. A friend who was into genealogy way back when called them "royalty hounds" ...I bet there's a common term for them--people who care more about making interesting or more numerous connections than doing quality research to discover the truth.

In every election year, there's an article about how this or that candidate is descended from a King of England, say Henry II or Edward I.

But that's one of the least interesting things one could find out about one's ancestry.

It would be a little surprising if you didn't find a king when you went far enough back.

It's the stuff that happened closer to our own time -- or at least in our own country -- that's more interesting.

That the Bushes are descended from a medieval English king is less interesting than that their ancestor is the man, Samuel Prescott, who finished Paul Revere's ride when Revere was stopped by the British.

It doesn't make them better people, anymore than John Kerry's descent from Governor Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony makes him a good person or McCain's from a captain on George Washington's staff makes him worth more than other Americans, but it does bring history a little closer to us.

But even if you don't find ancestors like these, the search can still be worthwhile.

57 posted on 05/08/2008 4:05:27 PM PDT by x
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To: Biblebelter
Interesting that they were R's on both sides.

My father's side was recruited into the Republicans by way of Marc Hanna's ethnic Republican clubs, which were the tool he and McKinley had used in 1896 to beat the Democratic/Populist merged party. They prospered during the Depression, and as a result they supported Landon, Wilkie and Dewey against the New Dealers.

My mother's side failed to prosper even during the 1920's, and they suffered during the Depression. They viewed FDR as their savior, and even today the descendants are all staunch Democrats.

58 posted on 05/08/2008 4:05:45 PM PDT by Publius (A = A)
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To: dighton

Was that writer trying to be witty? Edward II was notorious as a homosexual, and might have been murdered for that reason.


59 posted on 05/08/2008 4:10:28 PM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy
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To: forkinsocket
People who consider themselves white have some revelatory moments in the Library of Congress genealogy section, according to this book.
60 posted on 05/08/2008 4:11:31 PM PDT by firebrand
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To: martin_fierro

So, is the DNA strand turning clockwise or counter-clockwise?

(Another optical illusion indicating left or right handedness)


61 posted on 05/08/2008 4:12:00 PM PDT by Judith Anne (Don't just do something! Stand there!)
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To: x
Two things about American genealogy ~ the earliest generations came more from the noble classes than the commoners ~ even if they got here in chains.

Take a good look at the Bill of Rights some time. It's all about "noble privilege" except that the assumption is everybody is entitled to it.

The other thing is that a vast number of the earliest ancestors left no records other than their name in a list in a church. Illiteracy was rampant.

62 posted on 05/08/2008 4:12:58 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: blam
I've taken the short-cut...the DNA approach. That's close enough for me, lol.

Might be all I'd have, at least in some branches. My grandfathers were both orphans. Maternal grandfather knew who his mother was and where she was buried (I visited her grave with him), but was not sure of his birth father's last name (the father had died and the mother remarried, that's where his name came from) and then she herself died and the stepfather remarried, a 3rd marriage for him. Too many kids, so send wife 2's kids back to her relatives. Paternal grandfather was adopted, and didn't know his birth name either. Knew he came west on the orphan train. We really didn't know him either, as he and grandma split when their kids, all three of them, were still preschool age. If I had to guess, I'd guess some Spanish or possibly Portuguese on the maternal grandfather since his middle name was Carlos. The paternal is more difficult, but from his appearance, and the time he'd have been born in some Eastern City full of immigrants, would be Eastern European, possibly Polish or other Far Northern, non Scandinavian region.

63 posted on 05/08/2008 4:13:06 PM PDT by El Gato ("The Second Amendment is the RESET button of the United States Constitution." -- Doug McKay)
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To: Judith Anne
So, is the DNA strand turning clockwise or counter-clockwise?

Yes.

< |:)~

64 posted on 05/08/2008 4:13:14 PM PDT by martin_fierro (< |:)~)
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To: martin_fierro

Same here. :-D


65 posted on 05/08/2008 4:14:20 PM PDT by Judith Anne (Don't just do something! Stand there!)
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To: Biblebelter

In the time of president lincoln, the democrats were the conservatives not the republicans. The republicans were the “tax and spend big government” party. So your boast of ancestors voting republican since the party’s inception is silly.


66 posted on 05/08/2008 4:14:25 PM PDT by mamelukesabre (Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?)
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To: firebrand
You mean the part where there are more "whites" with a black African slave ancestor than there are "blacks" with such an ancestor?

There are also vast numbers of "whites" with a white Scandinavian slave ancestor, and they have no idea the ancestor arrived after having been kidnapped in the far North by Swedes, or that they even have ancestors from Scandinavia.

Lucky researchers quickly find the prison barges with their Scottish, Welsh, Cornish and Irish ancestors who arrived before the Revolution.

BTW, when I find one of those guys in the line I make him into one of "God's New Men" ~ who has no ancestors. That usually cuts off any English ancestry such a person might have had.

67 posted on 05/08/2008 4:16:56 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: donna
Oh! I didn't get it because America has never had that until the illegal aliens arrived.

Never heard of indentured servants, or The Irish, The Italians, and in places the Poles and even Germans (late arriving immigrants at least.

What we didn't have, was subsidies for immigrants, especially illegal ones. I guess you could call the Homestead Laws a subsidy, but at least one had to work the land to earn it, and of course one had to be a legal immigrant (which was much easier in those days to be sure).

68 posted on 05/08/2008 4:19:57 PM PDT by El Gato ("The Second Amendment is the RESET button of the United States Constitution." -- Doug McKay)
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To: forkinsocket
Genealogy makes history personal. The Past Is Prologue.

Plus, you don't know what's going to fall out of your family tree until you shake it. :-)

69 posted on 05/08/2008 4:21:13 PM PDT by wvguy (Montani semper liberi)
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To: mamelukesabre
Yup, those rascally Republicans ~ always spending the people's money ~ particularly on war ~ like to free the slaves, and to free Iraq.

The Democrats were hardly Conservatives ~ they were the functional equivalent of the Nazis in their time ~ they liked slavery, like they like dependency, and abortion, and euthenasia.

The Democrats never changed.

70 posted on 05/08/2008 4:21:52 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: passionfruit
When I studied my genealogy I learned that my ancestors were there. Fighting in those wars, moving West. They lived the history I only read about and it became more alive to me.

Same here.

And when you discover living relaatives in the home country of your great-grandfather still have letters written by him, get the local universsity history and language department interested in a translation project so you can read what was happening to a new immigrant farmer in SW Illinois, with a civil war draft looming, his worry that it may be as bad or worse than his forced stint in the Prussian Army in 1850's, the impending birth of his first child (a later letter described his wife's death and subsequent death of the newborn daughter.), trials, weather, financial panic, bankruptccy, starting over, new farm, new wife, new family and finally success.

This I would never had known if the research hadn't been done.

71 posted on 05/08/2008 4:22:21 PM PDT by woofer (Earth First! We'll mine the other eight later.)
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To: Biblebelter

My mother died in 2007 at the age of 102. The local paper in the MS town where my relatives live, did an article about her several years ago. The article mentioned that she remembered when the Titanic sank and that she and her dad went to church to pray for the survivors. We had never heard that story before. She lived an amazing life but was ready to go home.


72 posted on 05/08/2008 4:22:23 PM PDT by MamaB
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To: forkinsocket

My bet is the guy has hit a wall on his genealogy like I did with mine, so now he’s bitter about it.


73 posted on 05/08/2008 4:23:23 PM PDT by HungarianGypsy
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To: MamaB

“I have found that ancestors fought in every war since the Revolutionary War.”

How about both sides of the Revolutionary War?

Or on both sides of the Civil War?


74 posted on 05/08/2008 4:23:42 PM PDT by truth_seeker
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To: El Gato
People ordinarily put their relatives in Europe into several generations of debt to afford to move to America ~ frequently with a promise "to send for you when we get some money".

One of my cousins visited relatives on her dad's side in Germany who'd been waiting about three generations for the tickets!

Boy were they p.o.ed

75 posted on 05/08/2008 4:24:36 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: YCTHouston

"As a result of mass immigration, the willful destruction of our nationhood and the collapse of the traditional family, people are looking for something that will provide them with a sense of belonging."

This is probably not why all seek their ancestral links, but he offers a pretty good explanation here as to why some do.

76 posted on 05/08/2008 4:26:41 PM PDT by Mila
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To: MamaB
My husband is in a direct line to Charlemagne. The kids love that. Me, my maiden name "might" be in relation to the magi, but I cannot get any further back than two generations. Everyone I have contacted with the name has the same problem.

But, I did manage to make one good thing happen. I found a lost link in my family. My grand aunt had died and her husband would not let their daughter have contact with our family (called us -- get this -- "a bunch of gypsies. this I found out AFTER my choice of user name). The sister-in-law of this daughter's son was looking for genealogy info. and I found her post. My other grand aunt and the daughter got to talk and exchange letters before the daughter died.

77 posted on 05/08/2008 4:28:31 PM PDT by HungarianGypsy
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To: woofer
We had a family story handed down that was quite lengthy. A German researcher in the early 1800s had put together the personal history of one of Heidelberg's early adventurers who'd gone to Indonesia with the Dutch in the late 1500s.

A relative picked up a copy of this in the early 1900s and had it translated into English.

I supplemented it with some information not known to the original German writer, sent it to an associate in Germany to translate back into German, and then to replace it in the stacks in Heidelberg where the original (and any copies) had been lost in WWII.

It's part of Heidelberg's history, and I suppose mine.

78 posted on 05/08/2008 4:29:38 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: El Gato

Excerpt:

Over the past few years, it seems, everybody and his brother speaks about the capitalist system in America. Before, using the word was the hallmark of marxist training or influence. Yet lately, everybody is using the word - regardless of political leaning.

It bothers me because capitalism - the word and the concept - was the brainchild of Karl Marx. As well as offering an “-ism” opposite his own -ism, it describes a rigid class society in which one class possesses the means of production, the other nothing except its labor. The latter class is called “The Proletariat” who, as Lenin declared, can lose nothing but its chains when it rises against the oppressor.

This is not the place to argue whether capitalism was the appropriate way to describe certain European societies. The point is that owning things has always been open to Americans. The moment you buy one share of stock, you part-own “means of production,” not to mention owning your home and arriving at your place of work in your own automobile - a very American image.

America never had a proletariat.

In that case, America could not have been a capitalist country.

http://balintvazsonyi.org/shns/shns100202.html


79 posted on 05/08/2008 4:38:37 PM PDT by donna ("Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.")
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To: wvguy

Genealogy is fun and engrossing. An interesting site is wargs.com. It has a section on the families of politicians and a section on the families of celebrities and others—including serial murderers. If you know your ancestry you probably will find many ‘cousins’. I’ve found at least two dozen well known cousins on my husband’s side. On my side only Britney Spears and John Edwards. But I keep looking.


80 posted on 05/08/2008 4:40:18 PM PDT by carola
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To: HungarianGypsy
I found info on the web which said I was descended from Chaucer. When I find info like that, I do more research. Sure enough, I found another site which said he did not have any descendants after the 1500’s. So, I did more research and found out they only counted descendants from sons and not daughters. The daughter, gd, or whoever it was, was my ancestor. So, if you find info like this, just do more research. Another site said my ancestor was the Empress of Russia so I did more research and can not disprove it. So, who knows. My late husband always told me that if I went back far enough, I would be related to just about anyone! Guess he was right.
81 posted on 05/08/2008 4:41:21 PM PDT by MamaB
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To: HungarianGypsy
The Phoenician Connection

Charlemagne And Thomas Jefferson

82 posted on 05/08/2008 4:48:50 PM PDT by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
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To: blam
Famous DNA

Ancient DNA

83 posted on 05/08/2008 4:51:10 PM PDT by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
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To: x

bump


84 posted on 05/08/2008 4:51:49 PM PDT by Centurion2000 (Party ahead of principles; eventually you'll be selling out anything to anyone for the right price.)
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To: SoldierDad

My cousins in law did their geneology, and found they were second cousins once removed. Didn’t even know it, either.


85 posted on 05/08/2008 5:15:24 PM PDT by tbw2 ("Sirat: Through the Fires of Hell" by Tamara Wilhite - on amazon.com)
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To: dighton

Yup. I checked and there he is. But I was happy to go back further.


86 posted on 05/08/2008 5:19:42 PM PDT by Mercat (the magician has lost control of the show)
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To: forkinsocket
Americans who are still studying in the National Archives are just starting their research so there is always a lot of "scurrying" among excited "new discoverers." In the D.C. area, the Library of Congress is "where it's at" with more books on your particular American family lines than you can read in a lifetime.

Since our children are getting so little knowledge of American history in our public schools beyond the fact that Thomas Jefferson may have had black children, a personal study of one's own American heritage has become the home study course for real American history. Also, knowing where one comes from gives one a better sense of where you need to go.

BTW, anyone need a LOC copy card with $20 or $30 still left on it? :) I had only the opportunity to scurry around the place for about five years when more urgent retirement plans took me out of the City of Information.

BTW, the LDS Genealogy Center at Kensington, MD is another good place to scurry about.

87 posted on 05/08/2008 5:23:18 PM PDT by Muleteam1
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To: Gondring

I use original documents when I have them and I have some great ones from my grandmother’s wooden file drawer but when I don’t, I do use internet sources but I note that I do. Its fun and harmless. If someday someone takes it as gospel, oh well. My grandmother’s cousin wrote a book about one of my family names and now she is famous in the geneology world as a true source. I knew her as crazy cousin Tenny. I have identified one name which she mispelled and that mispelling made a huge difference. But God bless her she had fun and she did have a lot of good original sources.


88 posted on 05/08/2008 5:29:28 PM PDT by Mercat (the magician has lost control of the show)
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To: passionfruit

Exactly. McKinstry is full of used food.


89 posted on 05/08/2008 5:31:19 PM PDT by NonValueAdded (Who Would Montgomery Brewster Choose?)
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To: Mercat
When I find census info, I always say which year, state, County, etc. I did not do that when I first started out so I have info from many sources which I do not remember. If I find some info on GenForum, I note the message number and the surname where I found it. It really helps.

Let me tell you about something I discovered just a few weeks ago. I was looking to see if a certain site had the death notice of my brother and the first one had my other brother's name at the top of the page. I saw the name and thought that it was funny that someone had his exact name which is unusual. I got to reading it and it was my live brother. It should have had my mother's name instead.

90 posted on 05/08/2008 5:34:13 PM PDT by MamaB
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To: muawiyah

I couldn’t find any African ancestry much to my children’s disappointment but they were happy that I did find two Indians, one a Cherokee woman named Rachel and another simply called, Eastern Chesapeake woman. I also have an endentured slave, refugees from the potato famine, a sheriff in Sherman TX at the time Jesse James was hiding out there, a ship boy who got stranded in NJ in the 17th century at age 10, several Revolutionary War heros including two who are women, a great grandfather who fought at Cedar Creek - actually, he started out with a Confederate militia and was captured at Shiloh, was paroled to his brother and father on condition he would join the Union Army. He did. Fathered 14 children, his wife died in child birth, he raised only one while fostering the others. That one was my grandfather. I have three rocks next to my computer. One is from the tumbled down chimney of a log house my gggrandfather built in Kentucky, another is from the cemetary of my sixth great grandma who was a Revolutionary War hero, and the other from the battle field of Cedar Creek.
And finally, I’m descended from a man who’s half sister and her husband openned the first brothel on Manhattan Island. She is the sixth great grandmother of Theodore Roosevelt. Beat that!


91 posted on 05/08/2008 5:49:04 PM PDT by Mercat (the magician has lost control of the show)
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To: forkinsocket

Leo McKinstry says the current craze for genealogy reflects an unhealthy combination of snobbery and inverse snobbery, and is a poor replacement for national history
~snip~

Soooo..does Mr. McKinstry assume that history was made by..uhhmmm.. some things other than people who are made from other people and these are what we call “families”?

Anyone who has taken the time and gotten interested in their geneaology has learned more about history than they would otherwise.

Honestly- these intellectuals carry it too far.


92 posted on 05/08/2008 5:58:30 PM PDT by SE Mom (Proud mom of an Iraq war combat vet)
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To: blam

Geez. Sounds like the author just found out who his real father is.


93 posted on 05/08/2008 6:03:33 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/_______________________Profile updated Monday, April 28, 2008)
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To: muawiyah

Oh I see, you are one of those people that think the civil war was about freeing slaves...say no more.


94 posted on 05/08/2008 6:05:59 PM PDT by mamelukesabre (Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?)
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To: SunkenCiv
You can't blame him, he's british. The English have a long history of using bloodlines to oppress eachother. If we had that history in america, we'd have similar attitudes about genealogy too.
95 posted on 05/08/2008 6:09:06 PM PDT by mamelukesabre (Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?)
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To: mamelukesabre
In the time of president lincoln, the democrats were the conservatives not the republicans. The republicans were the “tax and spend big government” party. So your boast of ancestors voting republican since the party’s inception is silly.

Silly, silly me. I forgot that anyone that felt that the Dred Scott decision in 1857 was UNCONSTITUTIONAL and political pandering was a liberal and not a conservative. After all the Democrats thought the humanity of a certain color was not really humanity, but merely a piece of property. As you inferred, it was the other party which put property before humanity and was naturally more fiscally conservative in the matters of big government. Well, I could care less what you label them, but God Almighty and history will say they were on the right side for opposing an EVIL Supreme Court in the Dred Scott decision and the Roe v Wade decision because this Constitution will eventually be shown to have no more tolerance for infanticide than it had for slavery.

96 posted on 05/08/2008 6:22:51 PM PDT by Biblebelter (If the big blue states got to choose the Republican nominee, I say let them elect him in the fall)
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To: MamaB

What is NA?


97 posted on 05/08/2008 6:28:36 PM PDT by lonestar
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To: lonestar
Native American. Sorry that I did not just spell it out. I am so use to just abbreviating it.
98 posted on 05/08/2008 6:35:44 PM PDT by MamaB
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To: HungarianGypsy

My children are in a direct line to Charlemagne on their father’s side.


99 posted on 05/08/2008 6:39:23 PM PDT by LucyT
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To: LucyT

So...your children’s last names are MAGNUSSEN or something like that? Because if they are a direct line paternally, they should in theory have the same last name as Carolus Magnus...assuming no one in their family tree changed their name.

Or maybe not. I don’t really know where or when it became customary for children to inherit their fathers’ last names.


100 posted on 05/08/2008 6:48:39 PM PDT by mamelukesabre (Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?)
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