Whatever the reason, it's worth taking time to get to know them better. And yes, I believe it's possible to get to know someone who's long gone.
Try these exercises and see what surprises you come up with...
1) Choose a photo of an ancestor you'd like to get to know better. Place it somewhere you can catch a glimpse of it everyday. It doesn't have to be front and center, but off to the side where you unconsciously notice it every now and then—near your writing desk, on your fridge with all the other notes and photos, or on a bedside table.The experience of simply spending some quality time with your ancestor will bring you closer. You'll find yourself comparing and contrasting your life with theirs and by imagining their everyday lives, thoughts and feelings, you'll connect with them on a very real level.
Over time, see what questions come up when you glance at the photo. You'll find your questions will vary depending on your mood or circumstances of the moment. For example, if you're cooking dinner, the kids are fighting and your phone is ringing you may ask your ancestor, "Did you have crazy days? What kinds of things did you have to deal with on a daily basis?" This sets your mind to imagining his or her life in a new way.
2) After you've spent a few days or weeks with this ancestor photo, sit down and take a closer look at it. Explore what speaks to you in this photo? Look for details in the photo that give you clues to who this person really was. Is it a snapshot or studio photo? What props are in the photo? What are the clothes like...are there accessories?
3) Ask relatives for stories about this ancestor. Many times relatives will tell the same old story about a person, but try to prise out the details of what they might know. Did this ancestor smoke? Were they religious? Was he a "dandy?" Was she a "clothes horse?" Were they wealthy, middle class, poverty-stricken? The more details you can get, the better you'll be able to imagine your ancestor's life.
4) If you know where he/she lived, locate those places on Google Maps or Google Earth. Follow the streets they likely walked in "street view." Search Google Images for historic photos of the place during your ancestor's lifetime.
5) Using photos you find on the internet, make a photo collage of what you've learned about your ancestor's life. Based on the facts, let your imagination run free.
6) Finally, write a story from the point of view of this ancestor. Use the facts you know, but let your imagination fill in the emotions and feelings your ancestor may have experienced. Don't edit yourself, just write freely for 15 minutes.
It really is possible to get to know your ancestors better.