Monday, September 5, 2011

Family History Begins & Continues

When I was a little girl - like, elementary and middle school age - my mom would occasionally take me out of school for the day to accompany her to cemeteries and records places throughout New England. She would walk me through really, really old cemeteries, checking out headstones and writing down names and dates. She had me fill in information on unbelievably large pieces of papers that had to be folded just right or you'd lose track of where things belonged. I learned to put rolls of film on readers and scroll through them over a light box, looking for something legible and pertinent.
We were doing genealogy.
A few years later, I got it into my head that doing genealogy was for old people (like my mom who was probably a good 40 years old at the time - quite ancient), and that it was a symbol of the end of one's life's work, so therefore it meant - da da da daaaa (drum roll) - DEATH. And not the deaths of the millions of names recorded already, but a new and very personal end of someone's life.
Superstitious as it may seem, I was convinced that the moment I agreed to delve into records again, that would be the moment that signified my own imminent demise. And, believe it or not, I didn't want to die. Not yet.
So as sort of a one-sided bargain with my ancestors, I agreed (in my mind) to do their genealogy as soon as I was old and ready to die. They'd just have to wait for me to feel comfortable with wrapping up my life.
My mom's been very patient, and has prodded regularly, but gently, as she invited me to join her in this older-person's pursuit (now that I'm close to 40 I have to think she must have been an anomaly to join the elderly genealogists at so young an age...). My genealogist-neighbors who are near my age then must also be an exception to the age-rule. (I'm beginning to wonder where I came up with that rule, anyway?)
Well, I'm a believer in dreams. Whether they're products of our mind's workings or sometimes thoughts sent our way from God, often they truly are instructive.
I dreamed last week that I was in an office building with my husband and kids, and we were gathered around Jeff who sat at a computer. I dreamed that a man in old-fashioned clothes walked in to the office we were in. He was representing an entire group of people, and as their representative it was his job to question how things were going and what was I doing with the information. He pointed out four manila envelopes, full of papers, I presume. He was in a hurry and didn't stay to chat, but I could tell he was trying to not let his obvious irritation be so obvious. I was disappointing him, he was trying to be understanding but was a little miffed at my reluctance, but thankfully there was still time to get things done.
A creepy puppet showed up in the dream, trying to distract me with fear, trying to chase me in the halls. But my family and I told him to go away, and he did. Was that an embodiment of my silly superstitions?
Well, long story short, I got on to the New Family Search the next evening and decided to at least get acquainted with my family. While I was there I figured I'd add in some missing information - and promptly ruined family ties. I called my mom in a panic, and with her help I managed to unlink people I'd accidentally linked (am I even using the right words?).
And the following day, my mom called me over to her house where she patiently walked me through online research of old census records. I'm not sure what I did, but at least I started. I mentioned to my mom that this was kind of depressing, looking at the deaths of all these people. Well, I could see her thinking as she kind of looked at me askance, that's kind of what genealogy deals with, you know. There's that "D" word again...

I told my dad as I walked back home (he was outside - we live just across the street) very proudly that I'd been working on his genealogy.
Dad laughed, "It's YOUR genealogy, too, you know!" Oh, right.

Nothing like a good haunting to get you out of your comfort zone. I'm going to start on this genealogy phase - I'd rather not be visited by disgruntled ancestors anymore.

So if I end up dying in the near future, it's because I'm doing genealogy. Or maybe, just maybe, only when I STOP doing genealogy does that signify the end of my life's work... I'd better get (and keep) going!


  1. it is a daunting task. I think it has more to do with aptitude, natural talent, and time. Since I don't have the first two I figure I best wait until I have enough of the third to acquire the first. ;) You won't die (unless it is time to meet those persons outside of a dream state).

  2. i think mature is the appropriate word. you don't have to be old! i'm proud of you for being in-tune, steph! i'm sure that you will be a relentless force for good in saving souls!

  3. Yeah! I'm glad to have a fellow beginner. At least your relatives get you, mine have to deal with me. I am so easily distracted, it's really quite sad. But give me time and I'll get the job done! Let's go cemetery hopping sometime:)