The world got a whole lot smaller last week. The death of Leonard Nimoy hit me like the death of a friend. I’ve been following the adventures of Star Trek, in all of its incarnations, since I was a boy in the 1960s. Perhaps it was because of the amazing message of humanism that is incorporated into the show that I so identify with. Certainly no other television show in history can be said to have influenced us as much as Star Trek, inspiring countless individual over the last half-century. And although all seven of the original characters were critical to the success of the show, it is Mr. Spock as the backbone of the triumvirate that lead the team (the other two being Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy) who is perhaps the most pivotal. His character is the only one to have appeared in the series starting with the original pilot, through to the Next Generation series, and into the modern reboot by J.J. Abrams.
And it was the Nimoy’s portrayal of Spock that made such a difference. Nimoy himself was an incredibly talented individual. Not only as an actor, but a producer, director, poet, photographer, and tremendous supporter of people. Spock’s signature phrase was “Live Long and Prosper.” Nimoy identified with this phrase so much that he often used it, along with the acronym LLAP. And perhaps the best that can be said of him is that in the end, he certainly did.
Spock had many words of wisdom through the years. And many of these are very helpful to us in our genealogical research. Following are a few of my favorite things I learned about genealogy from Mr. Spock.
“Insufficient facts always court danger.” ~ Space Seed
One of our biggest challenges is not to make assumptions. Unfortunately, genealogists often create theories, which take on a life of their own without sufficient evidence to back them up. It is critical to find as many records as possible with as much evidence as possible to support our theories and turn them into facts.
“No. ‘Fascinating’ is a word I use for the unexpected. In this case, I should think ‘interesting’ would suffice.” ~ Squire of Gothos
One of Spock’s most famous catch phrases is herein explained in a discussion with Dr. McCoy in the is episode. Here Spock shows the important of language, and that words can have specific meanings. The same is true in genealogical research. Words may not mean what you think they do. It is important not to assign your own definitions to them, even if you think you are correct (I would say, “especially if you think they are correct”). It is important to understand the nature of the records you are examining to determine what, exactly, the words within them mean, given the context of the time and place in which they were used. For example, the word gay can mean happy, but it can also mean homosexual. Context is everything.
“May I say that I have not thoroughly enjoyed serving with humans? I find their illogic and foolish emotions a constant irritant.” ~ Day of the Dove
How often in your research have you come across something odd or intriguing about your ancestors? Something that causes you to think “Why did they do that?” Often we humans act in logical and though-out ways; often, but not always. When following a migration route, perhaps, we might find some odd directions that the family took. Sometimes we can use logic to figure it out, but sometimes their actions defy logic. Perhaps it was an emotional decision, trying to avoid people or places. Perhaps they went there because of people they knew there. Or perhaps it was just the way they decided to go for no particular reason. Think about some of the things you’ve done in your own life. Have you always behaved logically and made logical decisions? Stop trying to enforce it on your ancestors, then.
“In critical moments, men sometimes see exactly what they wish to see.” ~ The Tholian Web
Few greater errors are there than reading a record expecting it tot say something. Often we can turn the record into meaning what we want it to mean, but that doesn’t make it correct. It is important to take a step back sometimes and reevaluate our evidence. Did we miss an important clue? Did we dismiss some piece of conflicting information too cavalierly? Go back and look again to be certain that you haven’t misinterpreted something, or forgotten to check a particular record set because it was too easily dismissed.
“I have been, and always shall be, your friend.” ~ Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
One of the most heart-wrenching scenes in the entire Star Trek canon is Spock’s death scene in the Wrath of Khan movie. I remember the tears being shed with the good friend I went to see the movie with when it was originally released. Friends are important. And no less so in genealogy. Our genealogy friends understand our madness. They are also an important sounding board for us, listening to us and offering advice on how to attack problems. They are also a great place to turn to for help in testing out theories. I wouldn’t be half the genealogist I am today without all that I have learned from my friends throughout the years. And, on top of it all, they just make genealogy more fun!