Speaking for myself, I want to know something about the character of my ancestors because I believe that families pass on ways of behaving generation after generation.
I have been brooding about some negative behavior patterns lately, after the Charleston massacre. What characterized the Scotch-Irish when they began arriving in Philadelphia early in the 1700s was their aggressive independence. They had been abused by landlords, taxed to support churches they hated, and had suffered enough. They were angry. As they moved south to the Carolinas they found more and more reason to hate the British and to resent supporting the Anglican Church. Those slow to leave Scotland or the Borders or Ireland were extremely angry because the economy was so bad in the early 70s and Anglican landlords in Ireland were so oppressive. The Copelands left in 1772 on the last of 5 ships sponsored by the Presbyterian preacher William Martin. In South Carolina Martin preached so powerfully against the British that they burned his church. What did the young Copelands do in the war? Oh, they fought!
That anger against being exploited goes right down the generations. Most of the whites in the South did not own slaves, but their livelihoods were destroyed and many of them died. Even old men in our family died, imprisoned by the Yankees because they would not swear not to give aid to their fighting sons. They were impoverished long before the Great Depression. Someone was to blame. That anger goes right down to the White Citizens' Councils and crazies like the murderer in Charleston.
The best writer on this I know of is David Hackett Fischer in ALBION'S SEED. He gets us, maybe as well as the new Candidate Jim Webb does in BORN FIGHTING.
Understanding the sources and the history of the anger may be the way to let go of some of it and to focus the rest of it for good.
The other side of the anger is our independence and outright courage in trying to think and act for ourselves. There's more to be said about that.