Tattered Past

Tattered Past: My ongoing journey through genealogy, history, writing, self-exploration and art. ~~~ Rita Ackerman

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


 I've been watching some of those ghost hunting shows that are so popular on television: "Ghost Adventures," "Ghost Hunters International," "Dead Files, "Most Haunted." I love to see the buildings and hear the history. I even make notes if the locations are in the West because the stories could lead to an article.

I do find it interesting how people describe the apparitions they see. Often a description will include "really old," "late 1800s," "turn of the century" and other statements putting these people in the far distant past.

As a genealogist and historian I am more aware than most that these time periods aren't really that old. When I began doing my genealogy about 35 years ago I made contact with Dottie. She was a cousin on my Keith family. Here's a photo of her with her mother, Mattie.

This photo would fit many of the descriptions those people give of the really old apparitions. 
I don't remember when Dottie was born and it doesn't matter but she was still alive in my daughter's lifetime. We exchanged many letters and I still cherish them. 

This photo seems very old with that car. The lady in the center is my great grandmother whom I remember well. I think the other lady was her sister Laura. The man was a family friend and I knew his grandson and my grandma grew up with his wife.

I really had to laugh one day when one of the people on the show said the ghost she was seeing was really, really, really old and probably from the Civil War.

I realize it's all perspective and of course the younger you are the older these people seem but in reality the Civil War was just 150 years ago. I can remember when a Civil War soldier's widow died. It was all over the news.

Our grandparents and great grandparents saw an amazing period in time. Travel, communication, cooking and many other aspects of daily life changed. My grandma was born before cars, long before airplanes, she did own a microwave in her later years but her mother cooked on a wood stove. Wyatt Earp of the Old West was still alive when my mother was a little girl.

Another thing I heard the other day was that the researcher was going to meet with the descendants of two young men who committed suicide. Impossible. The person could have been a descendant of one of them or of their parents through another child but not the two young men. A descendant is somebody who descends from a particular person. Otherwise you are related to that person and descend from an earlier ancestor.

Every field or interest has it's own terminology. We all use terms incorrectly but as a genealogist this descendant thing really bothers me.

When you are watching television, a movie or reading a book think about how your family relates in time to what is happening. Could your ancestors have lived in that old haunted manor house in Lancashire, England? It can be quite mind boggling.