Have you ever researched an ancestor and saw something you thought was “freaky”? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I guess that depends on what your definition of freaky is. The word was first used back in 1832 and the meaning hasn’t changed since then. However, in today’s world, something freaky oftentimes means something that is creepy. Merriam Websters Dictionary defines “freaky” as being strange or odd. So, when you find something in your family tree that is freaky it isn’t always a bad thing.
You may wonder “Why the language lesson”? I did it to make a point. The definition of this word has stayed the same although most people consider it differently. This is how it can be when we find something in our family line that we feel is freaky. We look at it through our 21st -century eyes and that makes it difficult to wrap our heads around it.
One example is in my Coffey line beginning with my 4x Great Grandfather, Benjamin. He and his wife Mary “Polly” Hayes had 8 children. 4 of his sons married their first cousin and one marrying the daughter of his Grandfather or to put it in easier terms, he married his aunt! Within 3 generations this family had over 15 intermarriages of cousins. To me, I consider this strange, odd and freaky. These types of things are rare in this day and age, but back in the 1700’s it was a common practice for many reasons. Families lived close together in small communities that didn’t include very many non-relatives. So when it came time to get married they had a limited selection. Looking at the facts surrounding the time frame helped me to put it all into perspective.
Another situation that could be considered freaky would be how entire families just loaded up their belongings and moved hundreds or thousands of miles away. Today it happens all the time. My husband and I have moved from Arizona to Mississippi, Missouri, Louisiana and Tennessee and back again. That is 4 long trips and a lot of miles. However, the entire process was pretty easy compared to the 1700s. We could research information about the area, find housing and jobs before we left here. Moving, although tiring was simple, just pack up the U-Haul and go. We had detailed maps or GPS so we knew exactly how to get where we were going. My ancestors would make the decision to move, raise the funds, sell most of their belonging and if they were lucky within a year or two they could begin their move. They were basically in the dark when it came to what the destination looked like. They had “crude” maps and they just prayed it was correct. Instead of it taking 2 days to drive to their new home it would take weeks or months to get there. Then they had to build their home and plant their gardens and crops and begin anew. They were the brave, adventurous ones. If we had to do this most of us would never leave the area where we were born. Looking back, what they did could be considered freaky.
I am sure that you can think of many things your ancestors did that we would never do today. That in itself would make the action “freaky”. So when we look back on their lives remember, we don’t have to understand the why of what they did as it was a different time. I am sure if they could have seen into the future they would have thought we were all a little “freaky”. My search for the “odd and strange” will continue!
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.