Sunday, June 26, 2011

Why am I doing genealogy?

   And, what direction should my future efforts take?
   An excellent post, "Organizing Those Documents and Photos" by Lorine McGinnis Schultze at Olive Tree Genealogy Blog, and some wonderful comments, particularly one by The Grandmother Here, really got me to thinking.
   I started to add a comment, but realized two things.  I needed to mull over the ideas first, and what I wanted to say might not fit in that little comment box.
   I had just finished a three-month project organizing my research notes (see I've GOT to get organized -- DONE!).  Yes, my notes are now in order.  If I need to find one, I think my chances are pretty good at being successful. 
   I didn't voice it, but in the beginning I thought if I organized my notes some repository, some place, some day would perhaps not want them, but take them.  Three months later, after looking at every single page -- from 45-year-old hand-scrawled notes to recent printouts of online digital records -- I don't think that any more.
   Other than the few one-of-a-kind "family archive" records, a good genealogist should be able to take my sources to a computer or a good library and reproduce them.
   Think about the transcripts of census records taken from scratched-up microfilm before the days of online digital records. Would you trust those? Wouldn't you go to the source and look at the original, a better original than I looked at 30 years ago?  

   Naw!  When I'm done with them, these file drawers are full of dumpster fodder.   And when I'm done with them will be when I quit doing genealogy (read that senile or dead).
   So I'm back to what Lorine is pondering, finding a way "To ensure that my research into my ancestry is passed on."  I am not going to throw away 45 years (and counting) of work. 
    So what's the answer?
   Lorine's current plan is binders for her ancestral lines only. She has children and grandchildren to pass them to.
   I have two wonderful children who have, to date, only shown mild interest in their ancestry.  That's probably my fault in not working to develop that interest.  I only have two step grandchildren, wonderful young people, but they have their own ancestry and it's not mine.

   There are always options.
   The first I've been doing for several years -- a web page --  But personal web pages are not permanent.  When I go, it will go.
   Online tree services.  But how permanent are they?
   I really like the look and feel of WeRelate, but I wonder if it will survive.  I only have time to do this once.
   I've recently been granted access to but haven't had the time to do more than read Randy Seaver's posts on Genea-Musings and experiment.  Data-wise, I suspect it's about as permanent as any could be, but there are problems.  For me those problems include no pictures, limited sources and wading through the morass of unsourced documents.  In all fairness, my first post connected me with a cousin I didn't know I had. 

   So what's the answer?
  For me, I think it will be paper -- not that I won't upload my whole RootsMagic database some day.  RM has created a very nice interface to new.familysearch making it, I suspect, about as easy as it can get.
   I'm not sure how I'm going to do it yet, but I will be investigating what I can do with RootsMagic and my recently upgraded version of  Serif PagePlus X5.  Between the two of them I should be able to produce pages of genealogy and pages of pictures that can be printed in multiple copies for family and interested libraries.
   I will keep you posted on my progress.

   As a final note, I was delighted to read the comment by The Grandmother Here who wrote, "The joy is in the journey.  Searching and finding is what I enjoy."
   Yes!!!  So do I!
   Maybe that's why I have so many green folders in my file drawers -- sources I've found but never entered into my RootsMagic.
   Without doubt, I'd rather be searching any day.
   Although . . . I've got to get that information into RootsMagic.  I can't go online with it or to paper if I don't. 


  1. Hi Jim! I love that my blog post got you thinking and you've already come up with great ideas. I should tell you that yes, I have 3 children and 13 grandchildren with another on the way BUT so far none are over-the-top excited about genealogy. I do think the odds are good that a descendant of mine will indeed pick up the torch. But I feel the need to ensure the safety of my research now. So that's why I'm going to try binders with only direct descendants.

    Remember too I"ve been researching for 30+ years, I research ALL siblings on ALL generations, so I have paper that could equal Mt Everest. I believe one of my kids might take 10 binders of info on direct lines (might!!) but there is no way they'll take 50 - 100 binders or 10 filing cabinet drawers full of papers.

    I encourage you (and others) to print off your genealogy and put it together to donate to local libraries, museums and archives where your ancestors lived.

    btw the little comment box on blogger expands as you type a comment, seemingly it's limitless :-)


  2. I loved reading this post. I'm hoping to get my young children interested a little at a time. They're young and see me doing research often. Since two can now read, I'd trying to find things for them to 'get their feet wet' with. Hopefully, they'll want to carry on the torch.

  3. Good for you, D. Keep at it. Show them how much fun it is and the nifty ancestors they will meet along the way.

  4. Research, for it to be worthwhile, must be disseminated and shared in a field of inquiry. The job of the researcher is not merely to accumulate piles of notes, but to create something, a meaningful document for their audience out of those pieces of data/information. That document might be a book, film, work of art, dissertation, you name it.

    The piles of notes are not research, but a means to an end. What is it the genealogist seeks to find out?

    I'm looking forward to going with my father in a week to add to the pile of data. We're going to go on a "cemetery crawl" documenting grave sites. I have pleasant childhood memories of going on these outings. As an adult, I find cemeteries to be peaceful, meditative places to go and walk.

  5. Thank you, son, I'm looking forward to our cemetery crawl, too.