Recently, I have written a number of posts about aspects of family history such as making sure that we label photos, keeping paper items of interest and thinking about our "friend tree" as well as our family tree.
Today, I have been looking at the online coverage of George Clooney's forthcoming wedding [sob, *chokes back tears*]. And it occurred to me that many of those people who are in the public eye these days will profoundly confuse any descendants who decide to investigate them.
It never ceases to amaze me how much weird, so-called detail can be published about people who are just, at the end of the day, human beings like the rest of us. So-called because it is impossible to know what is true. Weird because I cannot understand why some starlet's daily routine is of such interest. I can see why a wedding or a red carpet event is of interest. But someone collecting their Starbucks, "working a laid back look" as they walk down the street? Really? They just threw on whatever was hanging of the back of the chair and popped out to get the paper, didn't they? (Am I just naïve?)
So there must be thousands of people out there who are not, and never will be, of the fame of Mr Clooney, Mr Pitt and others. All the reality TV "stars" and budding actors who have managed to get some internet coverage because of their relationships/outfits/general behaviour.
What will happen in the future, say in three generations time, if their descendants decide to look for their ancestors? At the moment, collections like The British Newspapers on Find My Past are searchable and provide a quite amazing, in the circumstances, service. And if we are very lucky, we may find mention of an ancestor in such sources or in local archives or libraries. A court proceeding or planning application; a medal or prize won; a wedding or birth announcement. Never would we find the sort of coverage that a descendent of a forgotten X Factor star might come up with about their ancestor!
Imagine Who Do You Think You Are? in a hundred years time....
"Well, Miss Random Star, your ancestor was in fact very well known in their day. If you would like to look at these 30,000 Google hits, you will see that they started off in a singing competition but went on to take part in all sorts of strange televised game shows/took their clothes off for magazines shoots/"designed" some rather nasty clothes and made an apparently rather nasty perfume.... It appears that they made quite a lot of money. Any idea what happened to all that?".
Sometimes on Who Do You Think You Are? in our times, a connection is proudly wheeled out such as "the best banjo player of his time" or "one of the first to make penny farthings in Glasgow". Still don't know much about them really. Not their outfits, weddings, clothes, children. Not their make up or ex partners. Oh how different it will be for those looking for ancestors in 2120!
Of course, there is a level of interest in many celebrities which is now completely beyond their control. They may have started off with the minor magazine coverage and posed "on holiday" shots but now they cannot contain the monster which is the internet gossip sites and they want to rein in the coverage but they cannot. To say nothing of issues such as phone hacking, long lenses photos, general dishonesty.
For his sake (ggrrrr), I hope that the lovely George manages to get married in privacy [although the picture above is apparently of him having breakfast this morning so his chances would seem to be limited]. His descendants will more than likely be fully aware of their ancestor's fame and will still be benefitting from his wealth. For that lesser level of celebrities, maybe they should think about what their descendants will think when they find out what they got up to.