'Irish Roots' archive



Irish Roots


July 13 2015

Ancestor! Cure your erectile dysfunction now!

Holding onto your sanity can be tricky when your occupational raw material consists of the legions of the dead. So genealogists have to develop techniques to try to retain that little spark of normality, or at least to try to pass for normal. It's time to share a couple.

First , keep things in proportion. At all costs, avoid ancestor worship. A single living person is worth every forebear you have - genealogy is not a matter of life or death, only the latter. Don't place too much trust in history. The past is not a reliable guide to the future: you haven't died so far, but that doesn't mean you're immortal.

And never forget that, however absorbing it can be, there is something inherently ludicrous about pursuing traces of the long-gone through mountains of decaying paper. Here's one way I use to keep that sense of genealogy's absurdity alive.

One of my jobs for the past 15 years has been to look after the main Irish Times Irish ancestors email address, ancestor@irishtimes.com. This appears on hundreds of pages across the site and has, of course, been repeatedly harvested by spammers. In an effort to disguise their obnoxious shysterism, these people often take the first part of an email address, hoping that it is a personal name, and shoehorn it into the email subject line to try to personalise their pitch. In this case, the first part of the address being "ancestor", some lovely incongruities result.

I collect them, God help me. They make a small but a significant contribution to whatever sanity I have left. Some of my favourites:

- Ancestor, reverse the signs of ageing.
- Ancestor! Fix your garage door now!
- Ancestor - let's get together for lunch next week.
- Your background check is now available online, ancestor!

Not forgetting the evergreen:
- Ancestor! Cure your erectile dysfunction now!

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