Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Not easy, not even close

I think I will lose my composure if I hear one more time how easy it is to do genealogy. Really. It isn't even easy to use If genealogy were easy, I wouldn't be writing this blog or teaching every week. Let's face it, the people who tell you how easy genealogy is are trying to sell you something. genealogy is difficult, complex, frustrating, boring at times, and basically really hard work.

So, you say, why don't you take a vacation? Take up shuffleboard or go live in an active retirement community and play golf? Fat chance. Genealogy fills a basic human need to belong. I am someone. I can hold up my head and face adversity because I know that my ancestors were strong and good and even if they weren't so good, they were my ancestors and I belong to them and they belong to me. None of the other "fluff" activities reach into the depths of my very soul and give me identity. Anything worth doing is worth doing right, but the issue here is that anything worth doing right must be worth doing.

Genealogy addresses who I am and how I relate to the world. It is not a trivial or a pass-the-time pursuit. It addresses those basic issues that make up our existence here on earth; who we are, why we are here and what will be the outcome of our lives. It pains me to see people "doing genealogy" who never feel and understand the relationship it has to life. Whether you understand this relationship or not, there is something about the activity of seeking your ancestors that addresses those deepest feelings we have as human beings.

How hard is genealogy? I have done a lot of really hard things in my life. Try conducting a three week jury trial or longer for an example. Think about appearing before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to argue for a client. Think about writing a Shoshone/English-English/Shoshone Dictionary. Think about learning Hebrew. Try computer programming or fixing laser printers. Think about hiking Rim to Rim across the Grand Canyon in one day. You know what? None of those come close to how hard it is to learn and do genealogy. Do you think the patrons I help think genealogy is easy when I tell them to go read 15 years of 16 newspapers in a county to see if they can find their ancestor? Do you think looking at endless rolls of microfilm is easy? Do you think dealing with relatives who don't care about accuracy and sources helps to make genealogy easy?

I hear a frequent comment from my associates who say, "I wish I could transfer all of the information you have in your head to mine..." Do you know what? I wish you could too. Then you would have to live with it all stuffed into your brain and running out the ears. Sometimes when I am trying to learn one more new thing, like setting up a Facebook person page or something else, I feel like my head is going to blow up. But maybe there is really no limit to what you can learn. At least it seems that way after frantically trying to work on genealogy for the past thirty years or so.

If genealogy were easy, I would be done and I would take up something more challenging. Hmm. So far, I haven't found anything more challenging. Maybe astrophysics or neural psychology? Since I have no coordination, I will have to stay with things that can be learned and take writing rather than building something. What could it be? Any suggestions?

Back to reality. I could start another life's interest but I already have genealogy and that is more than enough. Back to work correcting Family Tree, scanning glass negatives, scanning cemetery records, teaching classes at the FHC, working on the Research Wiki, going to conferences, and writing, and writing, and writing, and writing...


  1. Well stated! The work and research is never fully done, but hopefully others will appreciate what we have accomplished.

  2. If someone finds it easy they are not searching hard enough.

  3. One of the joys, and occasional exasperations, is constanly learning. Of working persistently to find the stories we want by following those clues. Definitely agreed it's not easy but it is fun, and it only takes a tiny find to rejuvenate us.

  4. And you love every little busy minute of it - tell the truth!! We have to love it - it's challenging, relatively solitary, requires a lot of creative as well as logical analysis... Yeah for genealogy!!

    1. Thank you for writing this wonderful tribute to the genealogist's workload ! Amen !

  5. May I suggest helping raise 7 children to your list of hard things you've done? Or was it not hard? :) Love, Tiffany