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Norman Rockwell’s “Family Tree”

Norman Rockwell, “Family Tree”

For me, the story is the first thing and the last thing.”

– Norman Rockwell

Today, I had the oppor­tu­nity to visit the North Carolina Museum of Art to view the exhibit they had put together of Norman Rockwell’s work. Today was the last day of the exhibit, so it was “now or never.”

What an amaz­ing col­lec­tion! From the early Boys Life pieces to the Saturday Evening Post cov­ers, to the later pieces on civil rights, you can eas­ily see the tra­jec­tory of the artist’s work, his increas­ing facil­ity, and his grow­ing brav­ery in deal­ing with the world as it is, not in sim­ply the ide­al­ized way we think of when we think of Norman Rockwell.

As a geneal­o­gist, I could not help but notice the work “Family Tree.” Rockwell shows descent from a pirate and his para­mour, through Confederate and Union sol­diers and through Native Americans and prospec­tors. When asked about start­ing the tree with a pirate, Rockwell is reported to have said that every­one has “a horse thief or two in the fam­ily.” This is a whim­si­cal dia­gram of the proper and the pro­fane in all of our backgrounds.

The exhibit begins and ends with a quo­ta­tion from Norman Rockwell: “For me, the story is the first thing and the last thing.” This is what geneal­o­gists are engaged in — not merely the cat­a­logu­ing of dates of birth, mar­riage, and death — but teas­ing out the first and last things that can be dis­cov­ered in our fam­ily his­to­ries, what I like to call “his­tory at ground level.”

Additional resources:

OPENGEN - Genealogy Standards Alliance OPENGEN.ORG - Genealogy Standards Alliance