Blogging wasn't the first pastime to keep me tethered to the computer for hours on end. That distinction belongs to genealogy, a joyful pursuit that began in 1989 and continues to this day. I couldn't begin to estimate the hours (and dollars) I've spent tracing my ancestors and learning as much as I could about them.
Most of the people in my family history were ordinary citizens, living their lives in the best way they could, much as most of us try to do. I'm pleased to have inherited whatever common genes I share with them, and I wish I knew more about them.
Other ancestors were more prominent, so much more has been written about them, and some of them were not especially nice. If you've turned on your television set for more than an hour in the last month, you've probably seen the trailer for The Other Boleyn Girl. The "other" refers to Mary Boleyn, the lesser known sister of Anne Boleyn, whom King Henry VIII married and later caused to be beheaded. Mary was my 15th-great-grandmother, on my mother's side of the family.
Mary was a married woman (girl, more accurately) who had a long-term affair with Henry VIII before her wily sister, Anne, wormed her way into his favor. The stories of these two sisters totally dispel the notion held by some folks that Hollywood is to blame for today's "loose morals." Ha! The people in that particular royal circle thought up plenty of naughtiness all by themselves.
I wish I'd known all this stuff when I was younger. When my mother walked in and found teenage me in a passionate lip-lock with my boyfriend, it would have been really handy to be able to say, "I know this looks bad, Mother, but at least I'm not as bad as your Granny Mary or Auntie Anne." And if, as an adult, I ever made a questionable, late-night decision out of loneliness or longing (not that I'd ever admit to that), it would have been less regrettable in the morning if I'd known about Mary and Anne. I could have written off my foolishness to genetics and cut myself some slack.
Fortunately, in the generations between Mary Boleyn and myself, our gene pool has been watered down by plenty of people who were more grounded than the members of King Henry's court. Grounded is better, I think. I may never have romanced a king, but I've loved at least one royal pain in the a$$, and I suspect my experience in that regard was not dissimilar to Mary's.
When I think about Mary, I like to picture her in the latter years of her life. She married a second time, for love apparently. Because Mary married a commoner, her sister, who was queen by then, banished her and her husband from the court. According to historians, they lived the rest of their lives in relative anonymity.
If there was any part of Mary that's now a part of me, I believe she appreciated the peace and quiet.