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

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Integrating Genealogy Into Your Lifestyle

The term "lifestyle" has been used a lot the last few years as the focus of our society, especially here in the United States, has become more "me" oriented. I never could figure out what my own "lifestyle" consisted of. The term lifestyle also seems to go with the term "active retirement" and even the idea of having a "bucket list." All of these concepts seem foreign to me. When I retired from my active law practice (more based on interests rather than economics) I was already so heavily involved in genealogy that I hardly noticed the change. I simply did more writing and more research. I also continued to volunteer at the Mesa FamilySearch Library.

However, I realize, in talking to some of my friends, that the idea of retirement evokes every emotion from anticipation to terror. One of my friends was facing a year-end retirement situation and was at a complete loss as to what he would be doing once he did not come to the office every day. In his case, he was facing a serious "lifestyle" change in the current jargon.

Genealogy can be a total "lifestyle" commitment. I happen to associate with people who, like me, wake up thinking about genealogy and go to bed with the same topic. I am certain that this "lifestyle" has little general attraction and few would look forward to doing something as time intensive and totally adsorbing as genealogy when they finally "retire." In fact, few can fit genealogical research into their current "busy" days even if they are far from retiring.

When the "outside world" thinks of genealogy or family history, they think of a "hobby" or part-time activity that might take a few hours a month, not an all-encompassing activity that looks a lot like a full-time job. True, you could do a little bit of research once and while and consider yourself a genealogist or family historian. But from my perspective, genealogy is a professional level activity. My genealogical activity actually takes me more time and mental effort than my intense legal trial practice.

Is there a middle ground? Can you be a "genealogist" and still have a life outside of genealogy? Of course, the answer is yes. By the way, I am not the best example of a balance between genealogy and other interests, but just because there are "full-time" genealogists does not mean that there is no place for those with less time and inclination.


  1. An interesting post James, I am perhaps one of those people who has been committed to family history or genealogy practically all my life.

    My mother gave me a copy of a book with what was to me aged 3 or 4 years old a “huge” drop line family tree diagram. It was only A2 16.5 x 23.4 inches but huge to me (I was fascinated by it even though I could not read or write I apparently looked at it for hours each day).
    When ever we were at graveyards where my mother’s ancestors where buried we would clean the slate tombstones I was also taught to write partly by laying tracing paper over a page of a pariah register and tracing the entries.
    Throughout my working life family history and daily life went hand in hand when I was driving if I was in an area my ancestors lived in I would take a break outside a graveyard and spend that break walking the graveyard and photographing any graves of possible ancestors.
    If it was a church I knew ancestors were in I would enter the church to absorb the atmosphere and reflect and if I was near a library or archive that might hold family records I would spend as much time searching as I could.
    There has seldom been a day in the interceding 63 or so years since first seeing that tree that I have not spent time involved with family history, I sometimes wonder if that is also partly due to being given my mother’s maiden surname as my forename.
    It gives me a “duty” to keep the name and the history alive by recording it for the future.


    1. Although my involvement in genealogy came a little later in life, I can relate to your interest. We have spent our time in cemeteries and archives.

  2. Since I have been retired now for six years I have made this observation. Women seem to be better at retirement than men. Women have other outside interest other than work. A lot of men only have work and no outside interest, although I told my husband he needed some interests or hobbies he did not do that and now is bored.

    After retirement I began my interest in genealogy and am completely hooked.