Monday, April 7, 2014

Genealogy Success ~ It’s All a Matter of Work

Do you remember how you became interested in genealogy? Was if due to hearingScrolls Man carrying towering scrolls a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or acquaintance talk about something fascinating they'd found in your common lineage?   Were you drawn to it out of the wonder of who you are and how you came to be the child of parents like yours or why you were born were you were?

My mother started her genealogy quest before I started attending kindergarten. She took me to the genealogy library with her on her weekly trips and shared the fun of our ancestral quest with me from day one. I saw ancestral quest as a lot of fun. It was a puzzle to be solved and was made all the more fun if I could find and prove an ancestor before she did.

Most of the folks I found were just common folks like most of us but some of them led fascinating lives. Some traveled much farther in their lives that I have in mine. It was fascinating learning about them. Their lives and experiences were so far removed from my own sheltered life that they might as well have been from an alien world.

When our own children were young, I took them to the library with me too. The puzzles they worked to solve were more difficult than the 'easy pickings' names that I'd looked for in my youth. I had harvested the easy stuff long before they were born. It didn't deter them from enjoying the quest though. They got to visit the city, eat lunch in a nice restaurant, be treated with kindness by the library staff and other patrons and of course trying to beat dad to the solution to the puzzles we were working on that day.

I remember the first time the old English handwriting on some ancients last testaments became easy to read. The lady cranking the microfilm reader next to me commented rather loudly that "I can't read this stuff!" She was visiting the Family History Library from far away. The trip had cost her a lot of money and her minutes in the library were precious. Trying to read the old handwriting slowed her research down so much that she felt the trip was being wasted as she tried to learn to read the old script rather than being able to extract data from it.

Leaning over, I asked if I could help. She looked at me like I was a most disagreeable bug that needed to be squished or swatted. Before she could verbally reject the offer, I started reading from the page being displayed.  It was so easy that is was like reading a newspaper. Maybe the synaptic connections that allowed the handwriting pattern recognition all went live in my brain that day.  All I knew was that old English handwriting was no longer a barrier in my quest.

The look on my fellow patrons face was priceless. I don't think she would have been any more surprised if she'd discovered that Christopher Columbus had sat down next to her than she was when a seven year old boy read the old text with ease. As it turned out, she had already turned the crank on the reader enough to almost expose the will she wanted to see. When we found it and I read it to her within minutes, she was overjoyed. Her trip hadn't been wasted. Her frustration turned to joy. The confidence of a young man increased enough to allow me to tackle learning to read other languages.

Like anything else, becoming proficient at something involves a lot of hard work repeated over and over. Anyone can acquire research skills if they work at it enough. The youth doing genealogy research today still need to know how to read the old script but they need to be wizards at Boolean searches in general on websites as well as knowing the peculiarities of the browser they are using and the site they are visiting.

Our very young grandchildren often show me tricks on the web that amaze me. I'm the one who is certified yet they are the ones who turn old rules into smoking piles of rubbish when they apply their newly minted genius to their own quests. I still win most of the joint research quests but find that the win column is shrinking on my side and increasing on theirs.

It's great. I love watching them surge past my limited abilities but the greater reward is watching them become infected with the genealogy bug too. Somewhere along the line, the stories I've related have served as a base for the success of that infection but the fever was fully realized when they found and recorded stories that they've discovered and recorded from their own research. I like this full blown contagion. Its intensity will ebb and wane during their lives but will never go away. As time goes by they too will pass it on to their children and grandchildren. I have little fear that all of our ancestral puzzle will have been solved before the coming younger generation engages in their own ancestral quest.