Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Word to the Wise

I've been trying for months now to get "into" writing about genealogy.

As a professional genealogist for thirty-five years, I should have a lot of wisdom and advice to impart. Instead, I feel drained emotionally, intellectually, physically. My zest and ambition seem to be gone. Shucks.

Genealogy has been my life, my passion. Ever seen I was a child when mom and dad told me stories about their families, I was bit by the bug compelling me to know more.

Once I when I was about twenty-nine, I was selling toys at toy parties, but I was quick to explain to anyone who'd listen, "It isn't my real job. I'm a genealogist."

One zealous mother of five spoke up, "But isn't genealogy for old people?" The comment stung, but I shrugged it off. Yet from that time forward, I felt my work in family history was less important than the work teachers, nurses or secretaries (jobs available to women in my day).

I used to tell people that if they waited until they were old to do genealogy, they wouldn't be able to read the microfilm. Fading eyes and foggy memories being only two deficits of old age. I know only too well about those deficits now (and other deficits as well).

After years of researching for other people and writing (not purposely) dry research reports, I'd like to have enthusiasm to investigate my own family history. I have compiled two families histories on my father's lines, but can't muster the energy to work on my mother's ancestral history. I had much of it done and I'd collected a trunk full of photos (which I were scanned and saved on my now defunct hard-drive). I wanted to write a wonderful history, but I don't think I can make it into what it deserves to be. Especially now that I have to re-do it all.

Have I waited until I'm too old (nearly 62--when must people get started)?

At my stage of life, I thought things would be much different than they are. With a chronic inflammatory illness (Rheumatoid Arthritis), on immune-suppressant drugs, and continual infections which completely incapacitate me for long periods of time. The drugs and illnesses leave me tired, depressed and without ambition.

A word to the wise:
  • Don't wait until it is too late to write your family history
  • Keep accurate, organized records--in case something happens to you, others might carry on your work.
  • Organize and annotate your photographs, while you still have a memory.
But most important:
Backup your files, so you don't lose everything
when your hard-drive crashes.
Don't be a big dumbo like me!


Nancy said...

I'm so sorry, and I don't know if I'm sorrier that your hard drive crashed and you lost so much information or that you have RA - or about both combined. I hope you feel well enough soon that the desire and energy will return, and you'll begin on your mother's family history. Perhaps you feel hopeless now because you feel so horrible, but those ancestors of yours are waiting to have their stories told.

I'm thinking, too, about Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit and Unbroken, who has that awful Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I know she takes years to write her books but it seems that she works at it little by little. I hope you'll be able to do a little and eventually succeed at what you originally intended to do.

Best wishes to you.

Travelin'Oma said...

I'm so glad to see your voice on my google reader!

I was complaining to my daughter that I don't feel able to do what I'd hoped to do. And she suggested I lower my standards. Instead of writing the end-all book, make the out-line; instead of researching everything, research one thing. And write down the things that only you know, even in outline form. That will help whoever does finish it—which might end up being you, just on a slower schedule.

We can only do what we can do, but that is enough.

Olive's Granddaughter said...

Nancy and Marty,
Thank you so much for your comments and encouragement. Your words mean more than you'll ever know. Love to both of you!