Like millions of others around the world, I love doing family history research. Sometimes friends will ask what is it about genealogy that turns me on so much. I think it boils down to this:
I’ve always been fascinated by history and enjoy reading non-fiction history books. I also adore historical fiction. When I’m doing genealogy research and can put one of my ancestors into an historical context it makes it all the more thrilling. Discovering that one of my ancestors (Benjamin Franklin Igleheart) was paid to fight in the Civil War as a substitute for a person of means who was drafted—and learning that fact from digital images of the handwritten Civil Records—prompted me to learn more about how people in that war were able to buy their way out of service. Fascinating. And, thanks to my genealogy research, personal.
I love being an internet sleuth. Searching for specific bits of information is so much fun. Finding it is even more fun. I love the small victories I get doing genealogy research. And, of course, with that comes the disappointments and frustrations of not finding the information I’m searching for. They go hand in hand. But hope springs eternal.
It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by genealogy information, particularly when it’s flowing freely. And that’s where being organized comes in. I need to have organized and accessible paper and electronic files. And I’ve found that having a research plan, so I know what to look for, and having a research log, so that I don’t duplicate effort, is really helpful. I use Evernote to help me keep track of the research I’ve done, as well as next steps.
I love the organizing aspects of genealogy so much that I started a blog, Organize Your Family History to keep me focused and to help other people tackle their genealogy-related organizing challenges. It’s been rewarding—genealogist enthusiasts are such a generous group of people.
A side benefit of my blog is that it has made it very easy for me to connect with relatives I did not previously know. I was absolutely thrilled in 2012 to be contacted by my mother’s first cousin, Jerry Brown, because he found my blog when he was searching for information on a common ancestor. Jerry then introduced me, via email, to a number of cousins and I had the pleasure last year of meeting some cousins (and my grandfather’s 99-year-old sister). I wrote about that little journey in a blog post called Genealogy = connections. This year I’ll attend a family reunion—something I’ve never experienced in my family.
Here’s another side benefit: Because of the connections I’ve made, I’m able to share stories and updates with my octogenarian parents. It’s fun to be able to tell them about some of the documents I’ve uncovered and that I’ve connected with people they remember from their childhood. It’s given us lots of topics of conversation.
I’ve found that my passion for genealogy has found its way into my business as well. Many of my clients have an interest in genealogy and appreciate that I am enthusiastic about some of their inherited items and photos and that I understand their connection to them.
I’ve started offering the service of helping clients go through their inherited items (my Heirloom Explorer package) and I have also started offering genealogy organizing services through Organize Your Family History.
Genealogy is a fantastic pastime and I’m so glad I have the time these days to actually spend time with it. If you’ve ever been tempted to give it a try, I urge you to go for it! (You can read this blog post, which I wrote for my friend Geralin Thomas’s blog, to figure out how to get started.)