The Jaws of the Third Death: A Genealogy Post


“There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”
David Eagleman, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives

Read that quote. Let it sink in.

The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.

I heard this quote many years ago and it got stuck in my heartstrings.

Apply this to your ancestry.

On one hand, it’s fascinating to delve into your genealogy and come across names you actually recognize. It’s fun to prove those family legends correct. (You know, the ones that say ‘Now, dear, you’re descended from William the Conqueror’) But you know what’s even more fun?

Learning that Sara Brout, in 1650, had quadruplets several weeks after the death of her husband and they all survived. 

Or David Arnot, who grew up in Scotland, fought in the first Jacobite uprising and was taken prisoner by the English in the 1715 Battle of Preston. He was subsequently transported to Virginia in about 1716, possibly on the ship Elizabeth and Anne from Liverpool, England.

Or Jacob Van Camp, who was a Tory and fought for the British though he lived in America. When the British lost the war, the Van Camp properties were seized and they were forced to flee to Canada.

Learning about those farmers, soldiers, tailors, housewives, pioneers, and reverends that aren’t in the history books. By learning about them, I’m saving them from that third death. I speak their names. I find them fascinating. And the more I struggle and the harder it is for me to come by those threads of information, the easier it is for me to believe that I’m snatching these names from the jaws of the third death.

In so many cases, I am the only one that cares about these people. But the challenge of the puzzle only grows sweeter with the struggle.


P.S. Please message me if you are interested in getting into tracing your genealogy!

13 thoughts on “The Jaws of the Third Death: A Genealogy Post

  1. I have recently started researching via Wow! I have to stop sometimes because it becomes overwhelming–and confusing. There are lots of Juniors (as in fathers and sons with the same names) as well as “recycled” names. Enjoying it though!

    1. So, so excited that you’ve started tracing your genealogy! It really is a giant puzzle and takes some work. One good thing about it, unlike every other hobby, is that nobody will pressure you into having something completed or to show them. 🙂
      Just take it tiny piece by tiny piece and realize there’s no rush! Do let me know if you get very stuck- maybe we have a fortuitous crossover ancestor!

  2. “The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.” That is my fear… that someday I will not matter to anyone, anywhere. Maybe that is why I try so hard to tell the stories of most (hopefully all) of my ancestors. I know it will take my lifetime, but it is a worthy endeavor, don’t you think?

    1. I definitely think so! And I also think that if we’ve inspired one person to trace their genealogy, by proxy we’ll matter to someone, somewhere.

        1. There’s definitely a draw to each ‘type’ of ancestor– the known and the unknown– for me. That’s a good thing, too, since there are going to be so many more ordinary people in a family tree.

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