In retrospect, the identity of my great, great grandfather’s half sister’s father-in-law was not high on the list of people I needed to know in my genealogical line. For those of us with simple linear minds, tracing our roots back in time seems simple; OK, who was my great grandfather’s father? Who was his father and mother, etc. back to Adam and Eve (or Bonzo the chimp if you bat for that team). If you have joined one of the many genealogical sites you know that life can never be simple again. Now most if not all of these genetic services are good but perhaps too good. Is it really necessary to find your grandmother’s cousin four times removed? (Her name was Mary by the way) Is the name of my second cousin’s second husband’s father-in-law a game changer? Only if it’s Bill Gates or Warren Buffett (if either of these two are reading this, I’m open for adoption). Our Latter Day Saints (LDS/Mormon) brethren and sistren use this knowledge for proxy baptisms; a curious practice for saving deceased ancestors. Since Catholics and Protestants reject the reclamation of recalcitrant relatives who refused repentance through the revelation of baptism before their release from respiratory reaction on this earth, knowing every possible relative is of minimal value.
That’s not to say there aren’t some interesting stories you encounter doing the on-line research. My great, great uncle Gould Still was murdered up by Rushville, Nebraska. He was a railroad telegrapher that was shot through a window of the train office in 1894; he was 20 years old. The killer was never found but the newspaper reported that a black man had been arrested as he was the only person of color in that less sensitive time and place. After producing an alibi the man was released and wisely left town. On that same side of the family a far distant kin by the name of George Hutts in 1905 was shot twice and killed by the mayor of the town in Illinois where he resided. The mayor claimed self-defense, for both bullets, and was not arrested. The complaint department must have been closed that day.
The Samaritan woman in the Gospel for the Third Sunday of Lent (A) could have used a good genealogist. Like the Jews the Samaritans claimed Jacob as an ancestor but this woman also had had five husbands and was living with another guy. The chart of ex in-laws alone would seriously mess up the mind; and what about children? This New Testament Elizabeth Taylor had a lot going on. However the point of the Gospel is not about her attempts at wedded bliss but Jesus’ love and concern for all people, no matter their condition in life. The woman and other Samaritans in that town began to believe in Him and found the Messiah. Part of our Lenten journey is discovering God’s concern for all people. If you want to discover the names of all God’s people, join a genealogical website.