Sometimes we have to look in the mirror and shake our heads in wonder. The person in the reflection doesn’t look as dumb as they feel, but it is hard to argue with facts.
I’ve looked for clues to aid in the quest to find of one of my ancestors for years. The results were always the same. Nothing. I’ve reread my research notes, rethought my research strategy and recommitted it to writing. The new plan required plotting possible migration routes of my ancestors, deep delving into the Family History Library Catalog and subsequent printing of dozens of pages of source materials that need to be explored at the library. A hand clasp binder is sitting on my desk bulging with these pages, group sheets, summaries of old research activities and the new plan.
I won’t need most of them now. One last reading of a page that I’d photocopied over a generation ago resolved much of the issue. I had to reread it four or five times to believe what I was seeing. I even suspected that it was a ‘new’ page that someone had slipped in to my file. Surely, I couldn’t have missed that brief sentence so many times ….. but of course I had.
We are creatures of habit. We form impressions that often eclipse reality. I remember reading the document on a microfilm reader when I first found it. I took notes from the page and even traced some of the hard to read writing on the page that day. I’ve probably looked at the page and the photocopy of the microfilm page a hundred times since then but my mind knew what it contained, and hence, the little sentence was apparently ignored, skipped or had become invisible to my mind.
How often have you reread your old research notes and reviewed the documents you’ve collected in your own ancestral quest? If you haven’t used a fine tooth comb review of them lately, make an entry on your calendar to look through them again. Mine them for hidden Gold.
Perhaps we have to turn the paper 50 degrees side to side to see something new. Personally, I’ve found that reading the data out loud is the best method to restart my frozen cognitive research review process. My ears hear information that the lobes of my brain used for reading seem to obscure.
Give it a try. You’ll probably find real treasures in your papers. Treasures that you’ve owned for years. Treasures that may open new windows in your quest.
Once you have finished your perusal and have then settled down enough to stop exclaiming your wahoo’s (and some of the grin has melted off your face), walk to the bathroom, turn on the light and take a good look at the clueless person who is staring back at you. Do they look any smarter now?
Lesson learned. Go a little slower. Review frequently. Look at the data through a different window. Gold. There is Gold your drawers!