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

Friday, December 14, 2012

Genealogy -- Burden, Duty, Obligation, Opportunity, Enthusiasm, Passionate

Because of my cultural and religious background, many of the people I associate with have negative attitudes towards the idea of family history or genealogy. Genealogy, if considered at all, is seen as a burden arising from a sense of duty and obligation. It is also seen as an activity of old people who have nothing better to do with their time. In my own family history, one of my Great-grandmothers was viewed as eccentric and rejected by her immediate family based, in part, on her involvement with genealogy.

I have commented before on the fact that, with one or two exceptions, my extended family is almost entirely unconcerned and disassociated with genealogy. If I comb the entries in the Family Tree program, except for a cousin who is a Product Manager for FamilySearch and several FamilySearch employee entries, I find almost no contributions from anyone other than myself going back generations. This is not a complaint, mind you, this is an assessment of the reality of many genealogists. As a side note, the entries for my Great-great-grandfather, Sidney Tanner, had been completely cleaned up and corrected about a month ago, but now the entries are more confused than before due mainly to changes made by FamilySearch and not family members.

In my experience, those who share my interest in genealogy, but who do not share my cultural and religious background, are much more likely to see genealogy as an opportunity, a challenge, and show more enthusiasm and passion towards the activity of gathering family information. I must also admit, that my initial entry into the realm of genealogical research was not motivated by enthusiasm for the subject but more out of a sense of duty and obligation. My interest in the subject developed over many years of involvement rather than through the inspiration of association with other interested family members.

Subsequently, I must look to fellow researchers outside of my family for the support, interest and motivation to continue to pursue genealogical research. Ultimately, however, genealogy is an individual activity and any interest or motivation has to come from inside the researcher. I realize that I am, in a real sense, "preaching to the choir" when I am writing a genealogy blog post. If the readers did not have more than a passing interest in the subject of genealogy, they would certainly not be reading this blog post. But many of us, I assume, carry the burden of reaching out to family members in an attempt to involve them in research, sometimes successfully, and other times without much success.

So do we add one more burden to our genealogical pursuits, that is, trying to "convert" members of our family to genealogy? To clarify, I do not feel a burden to convert my family members to genealogy. Sometimes it would be nice if they were interested, but I do not feel that interest in genealogy is a criteria for family member interactions. In addition, maintaining a sense of family and family relationships are all more important that any artificially contrived genealogical research goal. In my own case, I have enjoyed relationships with distant family members whom I never would have contacted or met without the genealogical connection. In these cases, the closets relatives are related through Great-grandparents and are therefore 3rd and 4th cousins.

One of the most successful methods of being involved in family history has been the remote ancestor family reunion. Some of these activities have been amazingly productive both on a research and relationship basis.

Not to worry, I am not about to quit my genealogical involvement. I am now so far down that road that there is no return. But I have devised a method to "hire" by own grandchildren for summer jobs helping me organize my research and add metadata to all my document scans. Who knows, maybe one of them will convert to genealogy when they get old and gray.

1 comment:

  1. Good Morning James. I agree that it is hard to get any family members interested, however my sister was the one who started the research, probably 30 years or more ago. About 10 years ago I got the bug and started putting the family history together. My sister had to do it all the hard way and so when she passed away shortly after I started I had stacks of handwritten notes and typewritten pages to work from. Fortunately I had Internet access and the information was coming online more everyday. So I have put together quite a bit of history with help from others. I have tried to get my granddaughter and great-granddaughter interested, but, so far, not much action. Meanwhile I keep on. My motivation was, at first, just to learn about the family background, but, since I have gotten into studying history and how it affects what families do and where they immigrate to. I am just finishing a class online of 700 years of world history that is fascinating to me. I have studied 500 years of Scotch, Irish and English history also. I am not a LDS member so my drive is just to learn more about why my families did what they did. I can't travel to shows or buy a lot of books so I depend on online resources and libraries for my information. I also do indexing as a partial payment for what I have received.
    I enjoy reading your take on genealogy and I am hoping that the latest version of Family Search will soon be available for the public.
    Ken Hess