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

Monday, July 23, 2012

What can you accomplish in your lifetime?

I get the opportunity to talk to a lot of people about genealogy and I find a common theme; that genealogy is something you do "when you have time." Let's face it, no one "has time." We all have jobs, interests, commitments, hobbies, family, friends, in short, life. So what do you want to accomplish in your lifetime? Is doing genealogy something you do when you have time or is it something you do? Period.

One of the most common questions people ask me is whether or not I ever sleep. I can assure you, I sleep. But it is what we do with the time we are awake that is important. For example, we recently gave away our TVs, again. How many hours a week do you watch TV? That includes the news, the weather, sports, whatever. My total time watching TV is zero. Oh, so how do I keep "in touch" with what is going on? I have replaced TV with the Internet. My one great time killer is movies. But I hate commercial interruptions, so I watch movies from DVDs or on Netflix. I have never been interested in commercial sports and so that has never been an issue. I am likely the last adult of my age who has never seen a complete professional football game in my entire life.

The basic question is how badly do you want to do your genealogy? What is genealogy's priority in your life? The simple answer for me is that I made it one of the very first priorities. Then making decisions about what to do or when to do it, fall naturally into place. I also work. I cannot sit and do nothing for more than a few minutes before I get up and start working. I wake up. I start to work. Simple. I always have a long list of tasks to complete and I work all day, everyday, even when I am not sitting at a computer. If I can't write, I think about what to write. I do this all day, every day.

By the way, I do have jobs. I have law cases on appeal. I have businesses to manage. I have family to care for. Boy Scout work. Church work. Lots of things to do. We go hiking, swimming, camping. It is just that I am always moving and gainfully employed. I fill in all of the spaces between activities with genealogy.

Am I out to convert the world to my life style? Not hardly. I fully realize that most people are not motivated to work all the time.

My main goals involve the following:
  • Processing tens of thousands of documents and cataloging them including thousands of glass and acetate negatives.
  • Processing tens of thousands of digital images and adding metadata.
  • Distilling the information from all those documents and incorporating it into my genealogy files.
  • Resolving some of the issues with my present ancestral lines.
  • Adding whatever information I can to the FamilySearch Research Wiki.
  • If FamilySearch Family Tree turns out to work, and if there are no onerous limitations, adding all of my research to the Family Tree.
That should take a while. Meanwhile, I will continue to travel around and present classes and talk to groups about genealogy.


  1. Not an important comment: I'm probably older than you (born in 1927), but I never saw a professional football game, although I have walked by when other people were watching, or have waited to call family to the holiday table.

    I HAVE shared baseball with family who like it, but leave it alone on my own.

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful posts. They give voice to others like you.

    P.S. Sue, just curious about our shared surname. My line stops in 1830s County Tyrone, Ireland.

    1. @ Michael; our true knowledge of my husband's family stops with his grandfather (who may have been McCormack); family stories but NO verification. Not even much from the census. The family stories do indicate Ireland, but no county.

  3. It sounds like you have found what works for you - genealogy research probably takes 40% of my waking time, and I too ditched the TV about 10 years ago.

  4. Thanks for a great post, James! Shortly before you posted this, I had the same conversation with some friends at a conference! Everyone's surprising answers about their goals prompted me to write a post of my own on this topic:

    Thanks for the inspiration!