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branching out

October 18, 2011

So, I introduced this month’s Chasing Maybes category, history, with the confession that genealogy bores me into a catatonic stupor.  I then proceeded to avoid any examination of the subject for nearly a week. 

“I find my family’s history fascinating,” my husband said yesterday, watching me dawdle on Pinterest instead of conducting online research.  “Did you know I had a relative who lived to be 99 years old in the mid-19th century?”  He was visibly excited, and I wanted to share his enthusiasm.  Really — I did.

image by stonysteiner via flickr

If I am truthful, though, the reason I ultimately stared down my procrastination and got busy was you — the faces to whom I promised this chase.  One of the gifts of chronicling my maybe-chasing in an online forum, rather than in the privacy of my own illegible journal, is the accountability it provides.  It doesn’t matter to me if one person or fifty reads my posts; it is important to me, however, to keep my promises.  I’m not necessarily proud of my use of accountability-as-propellant (shouldn’t my own quest for knowledge be motivation enough?), but sometimes we just have to do what works.

Regardless of the reason, I began my climb up the old family tree at Family Search, a site maintained by the LDS church (as are many of the online genealogy websites; I used Family Search solely because it is free and I am cheap).

image by stonysteiner via flickr

Once I found Family Search?

I remained at my computer for nearly two hours without a break.  I didn’t get up for a glass of water, I didn’t glance at the clock, and I didn’t find distraction on Pinterest.  I was wholly engaged by the process of looking for evidence of my ancestors.

My web search was a treasure hunt — pulling together snippets of information from my own memory, from other records, and from documents I found online, I began to sketch a picture of my family’s past.  It was riveting.  It also made me admire my great aunts’ efforts at genealogical research.  They never enjoyed the convenience of an online search when they conducted their research.  Their work was completed in libraries and dusty government buildings.

My internet search was also disorganized.  I realized after having spent two hours surfing that I needed to record my findings in a methodical way — I need to create a family tree.  Thus, my next step is documentation of my research, including mining information from family members to fill in the details that online records cannot yield.

Y’all, this is fun.  I feel like a detective.  I’m not even remotely close to bored.

I hope you enjoy a day with more branches than you can count.  Thanks, as always, for showing up.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ms. Astra permalink
    October 18, 2011 4:36 pm

    Your great-grandmother Margaret, aka Peggy, and her sister spent countless hours in Georgia summers going through sources you mentioned plus old headstones in cemeteries. Must have been hot & dusty work.

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