A family tree, to many, is a precious link that provides roots for millions of the rootless. It seems all men and women of European origin cling to their ancestors as assiduously as would any mandarin of ancient China. At first sight, its pretty explainable. In the great migrations of the nineteenth century hundred of thousands of Europeans tore themselves from country and city at the far ends of the earth only to relocate to new pastures and greater potential in North America. Naturally, clinging to memories of the past, once established, there was a yearning for longer and more visible roots, preferably with a noble lurking in the tree’s higher branches.
Our own interest, often a mixture of snobbery and human longing, has served many social purposes, but it pales in comparison to the ancients in terms of power and authority; something we would find difficult to imagine. In the case of the Pharaohs inscribed on the Palermo stone, they look dreary enough. Yet, they were magical in power , designed to perpetuate the endless continuity of kingship, right back to the gods themselves.
In the ancients case, they all use an overwhelming authority of the past to enhance the status of those who possess the genealogy. Such an ancestry implied not only the blessing of the gods, but the right to power, the right to rule and to subject others. A claim to ancestors is always exclusive. Chinese mandarins did not allow peasants to participate in public rites of ancestor worship. Workers and ancestors for them did not mix. The mandarins, as most aristocracies have, very sensibly to them, made a cult of genealogy to underpin their special status.
At one time in America, at the end of the nineteenth-century, ancestor worship acquired a certain respectability. But, like so many uses of the past that reach back to distant dawns, the force of genealogy withered and what was once a need for social and political authority became the plaything of snobbery or of mere nationalist obsession. However, for the Mormons, it remains a vital activity, and one full of religious significance. Where the genealogical past once sanctified the present, the living Mormons sanctify the dead. Their ancestors, once truly and accurately traced, name by name, can be retrospectively baptized and given their passport from limbo to heaven.
But what does it all mean? After a lapse of twenty generations, according to Boris Cyrulnik, we could have well over a million direct ancestors. So much for prestigious descent. The tree is a rather deceptive one; only by clinging to one branch and occasionally swinging to another, can a family tree me made to resemble one and not a forest of unpruned trees. It seems hard to grasp that we are, in the main, brothers and sisters, but it does also explain the fratricidal conflict between clans that cling to our contemporary behavior.
above:Scott Taylor:Kicking off the national Family History Conference at the Salt Palace Convention Center was Wednesday morning’s virtual video tour of the Granite Mountain Records Vault, the seldom-seen site of records preservation and storage for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (A Granite Mountain Records Vault employee looks for a roll of film so it can be duplicated for distribution.) The Family History Conference at the Salt Palace Convention Center presented a virtual video tour Wednesday morning of the vault, the seldom-seen site of records preservation and storage for the LDS Church. Granite Mountain is home to some 35 billion images of genealogical information contained mostly on the 2.4 million rolls of microfilm.
Christina Smith, LDS Photo Studio. Read More: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700028045/Mormon-churchs-storied-Granite-Mountain-vault-opened-for-virtual-tour.html