One of my current and on-going projects at the moment happens to be genealogy. And while it's proven to be everything from exhiliarating to exasperating, it's never been dull.
Currently, my family tree looks as if a purblind tree-trimmer has run amok with trimming shears amidst the lattice of branches; some branches extend well back and intertwine to the point of almost hopeless entanglement, and several more end in blunted limbs, hacked short only two to four generations back.
When I was a small child, I once asked my mother where I came from. Distracted with a particular chore then, she answered facetiously, "We found you under a log."
Given that, it's been easy to envision that, throughout the vast lineal forest, there are similar logs under which a couple of my grands and great grands, and even a couple of great-great grands may have been found, as well. They appear out of nowhere, with no apparent point of origin, and disappear without a trace; (maybe they evaporated in strong sunlight, I don't know.) And search as I may, it's as if they weren't born so much as they sprouted out of the ground. (Jane Doe: born: from under some obscure log - 1904. Died: likely under the same log whoknowswhen.)
And then there are the 'skeletons'.
I had occassion the other day, to go to the archives bldg. spending several hours touching (and smelling) actual pieces of history, sifting through several boxes of documents, some of which were coroner's inquests.
And yes, I have to admit to a rather morbid fascination for them. I probably read more than I should have.
While I didnt unearth the particular 'skeleton' I was digging for, I did come across several others that were interesting, to say the least, and which evoked reactions that ranged from "Oh, that's so sad." to "Well, that's typical for territorial Alaska," to "What in the world were they thinking?!"** to outright "O_0" !
Part of the fascination came from the wording of the 'legalese' of that time. And I quote from a 'missing persons' inquest (1914): "...We the Jury, duly impanelled and sworn in the above entitled proceedings, do hereby find that _2_ sufficient evidence has been presented from which it fairly may be presumed that "John Doe" has met Death..." (whereupon, You-know-who's mind went off on yet another tangent...)
Coroner: "Death, may I introduce John Doe?"
Death: "How do you do?"
John Doe: "...erm...do I have to answer that?"
Coroner: "He's been dying to meet you!"
About that time, I decided to call it a day, and went home.
** (My favorite was the assumed death of an elderly lady who accidentally used aviation fuel rather than regular stove oil to light her stove. Of course, the resulting explosion caused the small house to burn to the ground. Her husband, who was sleeping then, just managed to dash out in the nick of time. He was unable to reenter the house to look for her, and believed she had burned to death. She, rather, had actually dashed out a different exit, and was found some time later under a lean-to, several yards up the beach, apparently none the worse for wear beyond a moderate scorching. )