Wednesday, January 11, 2023



Sometimes you just take things out of context. It’s easy when you’re driving down the road, watching programs and adverts on television, or scrolling on social media.

Here’s what I saw:

Conference Keeper:  Jan 11 (VIRTUAL) Researching and Writing about Skeletons in the Family History Closet, with Diana Elder presented by Howard County Genealogy Society (MD) (Free) #genealogy

Here’s how my brain processed it: Columbia has skeletons in its closet.


Why? Well, first, because I have the current CA Board controversy on the brain, and second, because the logo of the Howard County Genealogical Society puts Columbia’s iconic People Tree statue front and center. It must be about Columbia, right? (Does HHC know they’re using that image?)

The Howard County Genealogy Society was organized in 1976 by a group of people with a common goal:  researching and preserving their family histories. Today, with a roster of over one hundred members, and growing, HCGS continues its tradition of promoting genealogy and family history research and encouraging the affiliation of people interested in the pursuit of their ancestral heritage. 

I checked their website and couldn’t find any more elaborate origin story that would explain the use of the People Tree. You know, something like:

In the back room of the old library branch in the Wilde Like Village Center, Bert Smith held the very first meeting of the Howard County Genealogical Society. Smith, recently retired from General Electric, and wife Betty (president of the Wilde Lake Garden Club) gathered together a group of seven eager amateur genealogists.*

Most local groups that have some kind of historical emphasis don’t focus on Columbia. You’re more likely to see images of old train stations, old churches, old bridges, old schools - - you get the picture.

Putting all of that aside, the topic of the presentation is, for genealogists, a legitimate one. If you’ve ever watched Finding Your Roots you know that undertaking this process may result in learning things about one’s ancestors that may be unsavory or deeply disappointing.

We all have them: ancestor stories that tend to be hushed up: illegitimate children, desertion, abuse, mental illness, etc. How do we discover the facts and what do we do when our family history research uncovers something unexpected? Recording these kinds of details can be difficult.

I have personal experience of this. The last person to write the Jackson family history, several generations back, went through all available information and compiled a narrative which omitted every single problematic issue. The end result is squeaky clean. And incomplete.

I do think it’s important to know where we came from and the truth of our own history, whether in personal genealogical research or through the kind of painstaking work being done by Marlena Jareaux and Howard County Lynching and Reconciliation. Skeletons in the closet are scary only so long as we are afraid to face them and invest all our energy in keeping them in the dark.

Meanwhile, back to the current Columbia Association difficulties. It was brought to my attention by a helpful reader that there’s more to the CA Board Work Session Agenda than was shared with Oakland Mills residents by CA Rep Virginia Thomas. 

Work Session Topics

(a) Audit Committee Recommendations to the Board of Directors regarding Governance and Ethics Matters

(b) Analysis of Draft General Plan - Focus on Possible BOD Statement

(c) Lake Elkhorn Stream Restoration Project

(d) CA Votes in Village Elections

You may remember from yesterday’s post that item (a) - - Audit Committee Recommendations to the Board of Directors regarding Governance and Ethics Matters - - was not included in Ms. Thomas’s email. I wonder why? Perhaps she didn’t think it was of interest to constituents, or too unimportant to share. Or perhaps it was problematic in some way and Ms. Thomas chose to omit it.

Since I’m in the dark about this topic I’m going to reach out to Ms. Thomas and ask her to shed some light on it for me.

The meeting of the Howard County Genealogical Society is today, January 11th, from 7 to 8:30 pm via Zoom. 

The work session of the CA Board is tomorrow, January 12th, beginning at 7 pm. You can follow along on their livestream

*Completely fictitious. Just made it up for my own amusement.

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