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The Genealogical Craze
by [?]

There undoubtedly is something in the American temperament that prevents our doing anything in moderation. If we take up an idea, it is immediately run to exaggeration and then abandoned, that the nation may fly at a tangent after some new fad. Does this come from our climate, or (as I am inclined to think) from the curiously unclassified state of society in our country, where so few established standards exist and so few are sure of their own or their neighbors’ standing? In consequence, if Mrs. Brown starts anything, Mrs. Jones, for fear of being left behind, immediately “goes her one better” to be in turn “raised” by Mrs. Robinson.

In other lands a reasonable pride of birth has always been one of the bonds holding communities together, and is estimated at its just value. We, after having practically ignored the subject for half a century, suddenly rush to the other extreme, and develop an entire forest of genealogical trees at a growth.

Chagrined, probably, at the small amount of consideration that their superior birth commanded, a number of aristocratically minded matrons united a few years ago as “Daughters of the Revolution,” restricting membership to women descended from officers of Washington’s army. There may have been a reason for the formation of this society. I say “may” because it does not seem quite clear what its aim was. The originators doubtless imagined they were founding an exclusive circle, but the numbers who clamored for admittance quickly dispelled this illusion. So a small group of the elect withdrew in disgust and banded together under the cognomen of “Colonial Dames.”

The only result of these two movements was to awaken envy, hatred, and malice in the hearts of those excluded from the mysterious rites, which to outsiders seemed to consist in blackballing as many aspirants as possible. Some victims of this bad treatment, thirsting for revenge, struck on the happy thought of inaugurating an “Aztec” society. As that title conveyed absolutely no idea to any one, its members were forced to explain that only descendants of officers who fought in the Mexican War were eligible. What the elect did when they got into the circle was not specified.

The “Social Order of Foreign Wars” was the next creation, its authors evidently considering the Mexican campaign as a domestic article, a sort of family squabble. Then the “Children of 1812” attracted attention, both groups having immediate success. Indeed, the vogue of these enterprises has been in inverse ratio to their usefulness or raison d’être, people apparently being ready to join anything rather than get left out in the cold.

Jealous probably of seeing women enjoying all the fun, their husbands and brothers next banded together as “Sons of the Revolution.” The wives retaliated by instituting the “Granddaughters of the Revolution” and “The Mayflower Order,” the “price of admission” to the latter being descent from some one who crossed in that celebrated ship-whether as one of the crew or as passenger is not clear.

It was not, however, in the American temperament to rest content with modest beginnings, the national motto being, “The best is good enough for me.” So wind was quickly taken out of the Mayflower’s sails by “The Royal Order of the Crown,” to which none need apply who were not prepared to prove descent from one or more royal ancestors. It was not stated in the prospectus whether Irish sovereigns and Fiji Island kings counted, but I have been told that bar sinisters form a class apart, and are deprived of the right to vote or hold office.

Descent from any old king was, however, not sufficient for the high-toned people of our republic. When you come to think of it, such a circle might be “mixed.” One really must draw the line somewhere (as the Boston parvenu replied when asked why he had not invited his brother to a ball). So the founders of the “Circle of Holland Dames of the New Netherlands” drew the line at descent from a sovereign of the Low Countries. It does not seem as if this could be a large society, although those old Dutch pashas had an unconscionable number of children.