Saturday, November 5, 2011

My New Obsession

My newest obsession is watching "Deadwood" on HBO GO. I just finished watching the first season and can't wait to watch the second. The show started in 2004 and only ran for three seasons. So I'm catching up and I can't get enough of it! The setting is the late 1870's in Deadwood, South Dakota. It is raw, gritty, and the language is bit rough. However, this all got me to thinking about my ancestors living in the same time period. Was Hollywood making an accurate portrayal of the times? Was the show holding true to actual events?

Being the curious person I am, I googled Deadwood, South Dakota and got a lot of results. I looked at photos of the town now and it still looks pretty rural. There was even an old photo online of how the town looked in the late 1800's. Like the show portrays, it looks dirty, muddy, and rough. I would think most towns looked very similar and had the same conditions. The costumes are also pretty accurate. It is hard for me to imagine being a woman dressed in a full skirt with petticoats, a corset, full blouse coming up to the neck with long sleeves, boots, stockings, and hat slogging through the mud and muck just to cross the street. Yuck! How would your outfit not get ruined every time?

As far as historical facts, the show has bent some of them, as many shows will do. However, many of the major characters in the show, Wild Bill Hickok, Seth Bullock, Charlie Utter, Calamity Jane, and Al Swearengen, were in Deadwood during this time period. Regarding the graphic language....I question if people (certainly not my ancestors!) actually swore this much and so graphically all the time. Maybe I'm naive but I don't think they did. Out of curiosity (again) I looked up one of the frequently used words, which is too vulgar for me to type here (starts with a "c" ends with an "r" and is a compound word), it turns out that particular word didn't enter the American vernacular until 1940.

So what does this have to do with genealogy? Well, as we go along collecting facts, dates, stories, and the occasional photos if we are lucky, it is important to think of the atmosphere and psychology of our ancestors. Nothing was simple! The constant battle of dirt being tracked into the house, the store, on clothes, hair, and your skin. How uncomfortable it was to wear all of those clothes in the heat. When it was cold to heat a home with no insulation required enormous amounts of wood or coal.  To cook required wood to be chopped for the stove, and the skills to make a meal from scratch without burning it or undercooking it. Now imagine a bunch of little kids running around this wood burning stove! The list could go on.

All I can say is, I'm a huge fan of indoor plumbing, heat, air conditioning, and modern medicine. I'm glad to be living during this time period. Although I can't help but wonder if our descendants will say the same thing when looking back on how we lived.

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