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

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Contemplating Organization and Chaos

When I was in the Army stationed in Panama, one of the Majors in our office had a saying on the wall attributed to Gaius Petronius Arbiter (ca 27-66 AD) a Roman courtier during the reign of Nero. OK so I liked the quote, but it turns out to be fake. Apparently, Arbiter was real but the quote is not.  There is not any proven link to him and any of writings attributed to him. See Wikipedia:Petronius. Notwithstanding the lack of provenance, the quote was thought provoking.

 It said, "We trained hard - but it seemed every time we were beginning to form up into teams we were reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing, and what a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while actually producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization."

Where ever this quote came from, it applies to genealogy as much as it did to the Army. How many times do we spend our time "reorganizing our files" when what we really need to do is research? I have yet to meet a genealogist who thought their files were well organized, even those people with immaculate notebooks full of sheet protectors. No one will ever accuse me of being overly organized, especially when I see the notebook people and feel guilty because of the piles of stuff I have to go through.


  1. Great Post and couldn't be more true. I'm in the Air Force and seems we have 'reorg'd' every couple of years. I'm actually at a base that has 'reorg'd' several times in the past 10 years. Right now, we are organized the same as we were 10 years ago, we came full circle.

    Very true in the family history realm also but sometimes it is good. Reorganizing means you have to look through items again and every time I look through my notes and sources in my files I find some new lead.