Bowles DNA Project
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Reporting People's Lives
When you begin the task of recording the lives of people from the distant past, you run the risk of portraying them to today's moral, ethical and religious standards. I believe it is an unfair judgment on people if their actions cannot be taken in a historical perspective but it is difficult to keep reminding readers that this is the case, especially on a web site where a reader may pop in right in the middle of a story thanks to keyword search engines.
My intention in recording my ancestor's stories and those of the people around them is just that: to record all that I can learn about them. It is not my intention to comment on the rightness of their actions, merely to research and record them. The actions of our governments of the past do not reflect on our governments of today and our churches actions of the past do not reflect on their roles today. We today are to be judged by our own actions and beliefs regardless of those of our ancestors.
If anyone is offended by some aspect of my portrayal of an ancestor or a past historical figure, please know that if there is a more balanced image which can be presented, I would be glad to once I'm supplied with the full story.
It's particularly hard to deal with family histories in Ireland of the 1800's. Many of our Irish ancestors left some very desperate conditions to throw their families into an unknown new world. They may have been Protestant or Catholic but that distinction which so defined their lives in Ireland gradually faded into a factor which only dictated which church they attended. It no longer affected how they ran their daily lives or their ability to provide a living for their families. The same would not be true in Ireland for many years and still today it colours people's views of the past much more so than in the countries where we ended up.
Was every landlord who sent armed men to collect his tenant's rents an evil man or was he a law abiding one who's actions were dictated by the laws of the society he lived in? Was every White Boy (or White Shirt or the member of any other agrarian resistance movement) a terrorist or someone heroically fighting for his religious beliefs and the safety and health of his family? There are stories of landlords who evicted fully paid up tenants to turn their land over to pasture and tales of landlords who evicted tenants for non-payment of rents but who also reduced those rents and shared their food supplies through the famine years. There are stories of rebels who committed outrages on the innocent children of offending landlords but others who refused to accept meat for their own starving families if it had come from the seized animals of another suffering tenant.
I believe there were good and bad people of all religions and elements of society in Ireland just as in every other country. However, the bulk of the people were normal everyday people of all walks of life who were caught in the middle and perhaps suffered the most and also made others suffer. Their actions although easy to criticize according to today's standards were dictated by the necessities of life in Ireland and according to the standards and mores of the society they lived in.