Salt Lake City: Day 1

I arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah this morning at about 10:30am local time and thus far, every moment has been a blast!  There is so much to talk about… where do I begin?

Being a southern California girl, I’m not generally used to cold weather.  Luckily, I came prepared with my sweaters, jackets, gloves, and scarfs.  It certainly looks like it will be a cold few days.  I’ve read weather reports that it is expected to snow tonight and tomorrow.

I went to the Family History library for the very first time today and it is probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.  Floor after floor of books, microfilm, and happy people to assist you.  It is definitely overwhelming the first time, but totally worth it.  I didn’t stay long today because I’m still recovering from the food poisoning I had two days ago, but I plan on going back before I leave.

I stopped and had lunch at the Nauvoo Cafe – most delicious roast beef sandwich I’ve ever eaten.  I wish I had more of an appetite because I would have eaten a lot more.

I had dinner with a bunch of fun geneabloggers at P.F. Changs – delicious food and even better conversation.

But now… it is time for me to get ready for bed.  I’ll be up bright and early tomorrow morning to set up the WikiTree booth in the exhibit hall.  If you are here at RootsTech, please make sure to see Chris Whitten’s class on WikiTree tomorrow morning.

Also, don’t forget that tomorrow is the Genealogy Idol Competition and yours truly will be competing.

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Who Will Be The Next Genealogy Idol?

Tiara

If you haven’t heard yet, Legacy Family Tree is sponsoring the first ever Genealogy Idol Competition at RootsTech on February 2, 2012.  The four contestants – two at RootsTech and two that will be using the webinar technology to present from their homes – will be competing in three rounds of topics.  The 1 hour competition will also be live-streamed using webinar technology and the winner will be decided by YOU!  Everyone will have a chance to vote for their favorite contestant using the webinar’s poll technology.  Read more about it here.

The four contestants include Elizabeth Clark, Michael Hait, and Marian Pierre-Louis, and ME!  (That high-pitched squeal of excitement you just heard?  That was me!)  When I got the email from Geoff Rasmussen saying that I had been accepted as a contestant for the competition, I literally started squealing in excitement and jumping up and down.  I then started pinching myself just to be sure I wasn’t dreaming.  My poor boyfriend… he stared at me in shock and confusion during this whole ordeal.

This is going to be such a fun experience and I couldn’t be any more excited for it.  I was made for competitions like this: Every December, the Doerflingers holds a fake Miss Universe competition.  We have a fake handmade microphone to speak into (and if the host forgets to speak into the microphone, the crowd gets a bit unruly and starts yelling things like, “We can’t hear you!”), the final 15 and final 10 contestants prance around the house to music as they do their best parade wave to the losers crowd, and the final 5 enter the interview round where questions like, “What words of comfort and advice would you offer starlet Kim Kardashian after the failure of her 72 day marriage?”.  The winner gets a cape, a homemade septor and crown.  We do this for fun.  I’m the youngest one of the family and yet I’ve won that competition 4 times… the family members who have yet to win don’t necessarily like that.  My Harney relatives in Seattle hold a ping-pong tournament every July.

Competition is in my blood.  A genealogy competition is so my thing.

The competition isn’t going to be easy since I’ll be up against 3 amazing contestants.  It is a serious honor to even compete and I can’t thank Legacy Family Tree enough for choosing me as a contestant.  I keep pinching myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.

So what are you waiting for?  Go register, get your thinking caps on, and get ready to vote!

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Preparing for RootsTech 2012

RootsTech 2012 is about 3 weeks away and I am so excited!  This will be my first time at RootsTech and the first time I’ve ever been to Salt Lake City.  It is also my first “big girl” trip that I am planning, executing, and paying for all by myself.    It will also be my first time working at the WikiTree booth in the exhibit hall (come say hi!).  Lots of firsts – and I couldn’t be more excited.  I’ve got RootsTech on the brain.

Last year, I was stuck at home to watch the RootsTech fun from afar, reading every Facebook update, Tweet, and blog post I could find.  Every single thing I read reaffirmed my belief that RootsTech is the conference of my tribe: People who view technology as a powerful tool to discover, record, and share genealogical and family history information.  This conferences brings together the best genealogy speakers and software developers the industry has to offer.  And the conference takes place right next door to the Family History Library.  Could it get much better?

I’ll be flying into Salt Lake City on February 1st and will arrive around lunch time.  I plan on quickly eating, putting my suitcases in my room at the Radisson, and then running (not walking!) to the Family History Library.  I’ve dreamed of the day I would go to the Family History Library since I learned about it’s existence when I was 12 – I’m just hoping I don’t find the rows and rows of microfilm and books and computers too beautiful that I faint.

I’m currently creating my list of books and microfilm to look at while at the library.  I’m going with the books first approach because books can’t be loaned out like microfilm can.  I’m also developing a long list, even though I probably won’t get much time at the library to research.  At the same time, I’m trying to prioritize which lines and ancestors to research and seek advice on while at the library.  Lots to do – but it is better to have too much to do than too little.

What are you doing to prepare for RootsTech?

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Why Bother With Genealogy?

The genealogy world has been alive with controversy and debate over citations on blog posts – this blog post isn’t about that.  I have purposely been avoiding the latest controversy, drama, and debate.  Then I read, “Eliminating the Hobby from Genealogy” on The Geneabrarian Reference Desk blog and I started thinking about what word I would use to define my own genealogy research.  It isn’t really a hobby – it is so much deeper than a hobby.  It isn’t a religious or spiritual calling.  It isn’t my profession.  So what is it?

Why Bother With Genealogy?

In other words: Why do all of this research on dead people?  Why spend hours searching internet websites and databases?  Why dig your nose into dusty old books?  Why give yourself a migraine as you scroll through microfilm looking for a name?  Why spend money ordering records from archives and repositories?  Why go through all the work?

My answers won’t be the same as yours.  That’s OK.  My answers today probably won’t be the same in a year.  That’s OK too.

I research my ancestors because learning about these people who came before me helps to center me.  Learning about every hardship, every struggle, every accomplishment, every name and date gives me guidance – a reminder of how I got to where I am and a direction I want my future to go in.  Research provides an escape from my head.  Research helps me feel connected to the people who came before me.

Preserving my findings is something I do for me.  I have a whole closet with boxes full of pictures, old letters and other mementos.  The boxes belonged to my mom and became mine after she died.   The stuff in the boxes is mostly pictures from when my grandparents were starting their lives together as a newly wed couple.  The boxes chronicle their lives and the families they created.  The boxes show the growth of their children, the eventual additions of grandchildren and the expansion of the family.  The contents of the boxes have a strong pull on me, providing me a strong, very real connection to the grandparents I never knew.  The contents of the boxes show my mom in various stages of her life.  It all reminds me of how I got to this place in my life and the path I want my life to take.

Your personal reasons for doing genealogy might be totally different.  They might be similar.  That’s OK.

Let Your Reasons Fuel How You Do Research

In the past, I considered pursuing a path of professional genealogy but I’ve since decided that it isn’t a direction I want to go in.  I’ve known since I was five that I wanted to be a teacher.  Being a teacher is who I am and while genealogy will always have a special place in my life, it isn’t where I’m meant to be.

With that said, I don’t always cite my sources according to Elizabeth Shown Mills’ standards.  I strive to have correct citations but I won’t be losing sleep over where to put the comma or what words to italicize.  My reasons for recording citations are simple: so I can find the source in the future.  I know my citations aren’t perfect and I consider that A-OK.  I’m not striving for perfection here.

I have the utmost respect for those of you who are striving for a professional level of work – you are strong, determined, and hardworking people.

Noticing The Theme Here?  

In my opinion, whatever genealogy path you are on is perfectly OK.  This huge community and all of its various branches would be so incredibly boring if everyone was on the same path.  Having this melting pot of people with different levels of ability, different goals, different opinions, different reasons for why we are here makes us more interesting.  It makes the sand box more fun to play in.

In Conclusion…

I’m no closer to having a word that defines my own genealogy work.  But I am closer to why I do genealogy research and what that research means to me – I just haven’t given it a word yet.

Update: As one of my dedicated Harry Potter friends pointed out to me, the reasons why I do genealogy are nearly exactly the same as why I am obsessed with the Harry Potter series.  Wonder what other things I do in my life that have similar motivations and reasons?  Interesting…

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Genealogy Goals for 2012

As everyone welcomes in another year, most of us are in a state of reflection and contemplation as we try to figure out what we want to carry out in 2012.  The big trend at I’ve noticed in the genealogy community is to find a buddy to help keep your genealogy goals or resolutions on track – having a friend to lean on for support is always helpful and aids in accountability.  Being the Type-A, ambitious, planner obsessed person that I am, I have found a genealogy buddy and I’m creating a plan.

My mantra in my life for 2012 is “Live. Let Go. Discover. Breathe. Smile.”  My genealogy goals for the year need to be in line with this mantra.

Here are my 2012 Genealogy Goals:

1.) Attend RootsTech in February and SCGS’s Jamboree in June.  Going to conferences is always an experience because of the energy – everyone is excited, happy, bright-eyed and ready to learn.  It is a chance to see old friends and meet new ones.  A chance to meet the genea-celebs (I’m going to meet Joshua Taylor at RootsTech – let’s just hope I don’t faint or ask for his autograph or stutter or make a complete fool out of myself) and realize that they are totally down to earth, amazing people.  My goal is to soak in the energy, learn as much as I can in and out of classes, and most of all, enjoy the company of my amazing genealogy family.

But for me personally, conferences also represent an opportunity for me to branch out on my own and discover more about myself as a person.  Although I used to travel a lot as a kid (especially trips between Seattle to Los Angeles in the summers to visit my Dad), I don’t really travel much and I’ve never really traveled without my parents.  Going to Salt Lake City to attend RootsTech will be the first trip that I’ve planned and executed all by myself.  I’ll be flying by myself – and unlike the days of my childhood where I would fly by myself, there will be no flight attendant to watch over me, tell me jokes, and even let me into the cockpit to meet the pilot (those were pre-9/11 days).  I’ll be staying in a hotel all by myself.  As my dad likes to put it, I’ll be taking my first “Big Girl Trip”.  Although I’m nervous about the trip and trying to plan for every possible occurrence (Seriously – I’m a ridiculously Type-A, plan obsessed person), I also couldn’t be any more excited.

If you’ll be at RootsTech, come visit me at the WikiTree booth in the exhibit hall – I’d love to meet up for a bite to eat, drinks, or for a class.  Or even just to hang out.

2.) Write About Each of my Brick Wall Ancestors.  The only way I can tackle my brick walls without barking up the wrong tree or wasting time doing work that I’ve already done is to organize the information I already have and write out my next steps.  This helps me visualize the holes in my research, create a plan, and tackle the brick wall.

I will write a blog post (or series of posts) for each of my following brick wall ancestors:

  • My paternal great grandfather, George Rogers.
  • My paternal 3x great grandfather, John Asher.
  • My paternal 3x great grandfather, James L. Clawson Sr.  There is so much misinformation out there on this guy and I really want to be able to separate fact from fiction.
  • My paternal 2x great grandmother, Josephine Frank.
  • My maternal 2x great grandfather, Adolph Carl Doerflinger – especially his life in Germany.
  • My maternal 2x great grandparents, Antone Keppler and Rosalie Endres – especially their lives in Germany.
  • My maternal 2x great grandfather, Frederick Harney – yet another man from Germany.
  • My maternal 3x great grandparents, Stephen Weston and Mary Morgan in Wales.
  • My maternal 3x great grandparents, John Coombe and Esther ? in Wales.

With 9 ancestors to cover, I will have to write about an ancestor about every month.  Having only 9 ancestors to write about gives me some wiggle room for the holidays and extra busy months.  Hopefully by writing about these brick walls, I will discover more about these ancestors and about research strategies.

3.) Move Away From Paper to Digital.  I hate to admit it, but I just don’t touch my genealogy binders.  I’ve worked so hard to make the notebooks well organized and easy to read – but I almost never use them.  Being the busy, always-on-the-go kind of girl, I want my research to be available to me at a moment’s notice and the way to do that is to keep my research on my computer.  My laptop goes nearly everywhere with me and I have most of my research on there.  My RootsMagic file and all genealogy-related image files are saved in Drop Box, so I also have them available from any computer with an internet connection.  My binders sit on the bottom shelf of my living room bookshelf untouched because I can’t access them as spontaneously as my digital files.

The majority of my research happens when I don’t plan it: during a lunch break on my college campus, in between study sessions, and any other times I have inspiration.  My college backpack already weighs a ton due to my textbooks, school binder, food, giant jug of caffeine and laptop that I carry around on a daily basis – I don’t have the space or physical ability to carry around my 6 genealogy binders just in case I get the urge to do some research.  The binders just don’t fit my lifestyle any more.

But I haven’t sworn off paper all together.  Paper is often the best tool to help me sort through my thoughts and ideas.  Paper helps me slow down and avoid the mistakes I often make when I am rushing.  Paper gives me something tangible to hold.  But those used pieces of paper will probably not be useful to me in the long-term.  I forget about paper and thus, I rarely ever refer to a piece of paper twice.  However, if I scan that page and link it to my RootsMagic file for the ancestor in question, I will see it and use it.

The plan is to scan every piece of paper in my New England Ancestors binder (where I have the most papers with my brainstorming and thought sorting sessions) and then link it to the appropriate people in my RootsMagic database.

*****

Having a genealogy buddy to support me and keep me accountable will definitely be key to successfully fulfilling these goals.  My genea-buddy is Miriam Robbins of Ancestories.  I had the pleasure to meet Miriam in 2010 and I really felt like we connected.  We both have crazy schedules as we struggle to survive and make things work.  We have both faced hardships and struggles but came out as stronger people.  And we both love researching our ancestors, blogging about it, and teaching others about.

I’ve tried to keep my goals realistic while also giving me a bit of a challenge to push myself.  I often work best when I have a little bit of a challenge and I can become obsessed determined to accomplish the goal.  (Example: I wanted a 4.0 GPA last semester.  I studied like crazy, developed an addiction to coffee, and achieved a 3.9 GPA).

2011 was a year of new beginnings for me: Figuring out who I am without my Mom in my life, moving out on my own, teaching preschoolers for the first time (so much fun and so my thing!) and trying to figure out what kind of teacher I hope to be.  All in all, it was a good year.

May 2012 be yet another year of discovery, letting go, smiles, breaths of fresh air, and living life to the fullest!  There may be growing pains involved and definitely a lot of trial and error, but in the last three years of my life, I’ve learned that I can survive just about anything.  For those of you who have been reading my blog during 2011: THANK YOU for being on this journey with me!  Here is to 2012!

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Are Bloggers Leading the Genealogy Community?

Balanced Over the Bay

I’ve been quietly reading a few very thought-provoking blog posts by Michael Hait (The Genealogy Paradigm Shift: Are Bloggers the New “Experts”?) and Marian Pierre-Louis (Are Bloggers Really the New Experts? Part 1 & 2) and figured it was time to put my two opinionated cents into the conversation.

Is the Genealogy Community Changing?  Absolutely.  There is no doubt.  The change is already happening.  There will be growing pains.  BUT we can lessen the growing pains if everyone decides to embrace each other.

It means that the “traditional crowd” decides to dip their toes into the technology waters while also mentoring the tech community on how to get down and dirty in a courthouse basement to find the record.

It means that the “tech crowd” has to kindly help the more traditional crowd get their feet wet in the technology waters while also being willing to get down and dirty in the dusty stacks of undigitized records in an old courthouse.

Why?  Because both groups have the same goal and both groups have something valuable to offer the other.  In my mind, the genealogy community will thrive when it learns to walk the balance beam of using technology tools to go out into courthouses, archives, and other repositories to make genealogy discoveries.  Finding the balance isn’t always easy, but it is worth it.

But Are Bloggers Experts?

Sometimes.  There are definitely some blogger in the community that are undoubtedly experts in genealogy, technology, or both.  There are also some new people who are still learning.  There are some people who don’t have formal training but are definitely knowledgeable.  The community is so wide spread, so varied, and I don’t view that as a bad thing.  We can always learn something from a blog – even if it is just an example of how not to do something.

One thing is for sure: We are an opinionated group and we know how to make our voices heard.  If we love something, we will do everything in our powers to be the best cheerleaders possible.  If we dislike something… well, we’ll speak loudly on that topic too.  We have no problem being honest with what we think or believe.

But Does That Mean Bloggers are Leading the Genealogy Community?

In the sense of being vocal and being seen… yes, bloggers are leading the genealogy community and it is all because we know how to spread information quickly and effectively.

But bloggers aren’t the only ones leading the genealogy community – we also have big companies and information spreading groups that are influencing the community.  FamilySearch is not only well known for free online records and indexing projects, but also for creating RootsTech – a conference that bridges the gap between technology and genealogy.  Ancestry.com isn’t just known for being a huge company with lots tons of records online, it is also known for being the main sponsor of Who Do You Think You Are? (US Version).  These companies and many others are getting their names out there.

Are Genealogy Societies Doomed? 

If genealogy societies do not choose to learn technology, then the whole community is in trouble.  Genealogy societies not only provide a place for genealogists to meet face to face, many societies also offer learning opportunities by hosting lectures and bringing in speakers, offering libraries for research, and helping the community through indexing or transcription projects.

But genealogy societies will disappear unless they start welcoming the technology crowd with opening arms and start considering how they will interact with the online genealogy community.  The technology crowd also needs to make an effort to step away from the computer once in a while and visit a real society.

 

Thoughts?  Comments?  Agree?  Disagree?

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The Annual Miss Universe Party

Every year around Christmas time, the Doerflingers and friends attend the Miss Universe Party.  It has become a family tradition – and we always go all out.

The idea for the party started with my grandparents, Max and Margaret “Sis” (Harney) Doerflinger.  My grandparents were living in Santa Monica, California and would always throw parties for the friends, neighbors, and family in the area – since my grandparents were pretty well known, a lot of people would be attending.  It was soon decided that they needed a game – something that even the kids could play.  The results?  Miss Mud Pie.

The idea for the game came from the popularity of the Miss Universe and Miss USA Pageants that were started in 1952 in Long Beach, California.

The rules of the game were simple: Put the names of all attendees into a hat.  If your name is pulled out of the hat, you’re out of the game.  The last 5 names are to give speeches of what they would do if they were to win Miss Mud Pie.  The last name to be drawn will be crowned Miss Mud Pie.  My family even created a crown for the winner and a fake microphone to use during the speeches.

For reasons that no one seems to remember, in the 1960s, the name of the competition game was changed to Miss Universe.

In the early 1990s, our party was so big that we had to rent a small hall to fit everyone. I'm the little girl in the center with the golden crown on my head - it was my first Miss Universe title and I was only about 4 years old. And I plan on winning the title again in 2011.

Another game was added to the party: The Gag Gift Name.  It begins by everyone bringing a wrapped gag gift.  Then everyone draws a number from a hat.  Number 1 goes first and gets to choose a gift and unwrap it.  We move in numerical order until all the gifts are gone.  To make the game more interesting, instead of choosing an unopened gag gift, a player may also choose to “steal” a gift from someone else.  A gift may only be stolen twice (having been in the hands of a total of 3 people) before it becomes frozen and cannot be stolen again.  This game often gets really a little competitive – as someone always ends up bringing something absolutely ridiculous or something that people actually want.

Gag Gift Game - Circa 1994. That is my big blonde head in the bottom right hand corner.

Since I was little, we have changed a few things with the Miss Universe Game.  Now – everyone gets a paper sash with a name on it – the names vary based on the theme.  One year everyone was a different kind of flower.  One year we were cuts of meat.  One year we were natural disasters.  We also require that everyone brings a dollar and the crowned winner of the game gets all the money.

This is me... in my toothless wonder.

December 18th, 2011 (tomorrow), will be the next Miss Universe party – and I plan on regaining my title back… and getting the cash that goes along with it.

Happy Holidays!

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Sometimes Family History Hits When You Least Expect It

Sometimes family history hits you when you least expect it.

As I was frantically working to finish an essay I have due tomorrow (trying to play catch-up from my weekend in bed with a cold), I took a break and headed to Facebook.  I was surprised to see that my cousin began posting pictures of my Mom on my page.  Looks like the essay will have to wait.

Not many of my family members are computer literate and there is an even smaller percentage of them who are social media literate.  Lucky for me, a cousin of mine recently joined Facebook and has been adding photos like crazy – mostly from his vacations over the years.  But tonight – unexpectedly – he began posting photos of my Mom and I and with the exception of one photo, I have never seen these before.

My new favorite photo of Mom. Mom is smiling for the camera as she sits next to her older brother, Don. She looks radiant here and just as tan as I remember she always was - a result of many days at the beach or outside exploring the world.

 

Here is a photo of Mom and her brother Don sitting on the beach in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico while on a family vacation in 1980. Mom always did look amazing in a bathing suit.

 

Here is a great photo of Mom cuddling with her Uncle Jack while brother-in-law Guy takes a photo. I love this photo because it shows Mom's loving side. Circa 1977 or 78.

 

Mom loved camping and we'd often go on camping trips - sometimes with the entire family and sometimes just the two of us. Here is a photo from around 1993 or 1994 of (left to right) Me, Uncle Don, and my cousin Christine.

I can't tell you how many memories I have at the beach as a kid - Mom always called me a "water baby". After we moved to Seattle around 1997, I would fly down to California to spend a few weeks of summer with my family. Mom was always willing to hand me over to relatives so I could experience as many adventures as possible - even though she had to work. This is a photo from around 1998 while at the beach with my Uncle Don.

Sometimes family history hits you when you least expect it.

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Preschoolers & Family

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been regularly substituting at a local preschool.  While I’ve spent most of my time explaining that LMNOP is five letters (not one!) and how Free Willy is not the name of a species of animal but the name of a whale, I’ve also spent my time discussing the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and families.

For example, the other day in the three year old room we talked about how one little boy is about to become a big brother because his mommy has a baby in her tummy.  We talked about how having a little brother or sister means that you’ll have someone to play with and someone to share your toys with.  Other kids weighed in on how sometimes brothers and sisters can make you mad but how you love your brother or sister anyway.

Later that day we did an art activity where the children drew the people that lived in their home.  The teachers then go around the room and write the names of the people in the drawing.  Some of the children understand and draw something that at least resembles the family and other kids just draw – we still write down whatever they say.

We get the typical responses:

“That is daddy and that is mommy.  And that is me.  And that is Jon and that is Zoe.”

“Is Jon you’re big brother?” I’d ask.

“Yes.”

“And who is Zoe?”

“My cat.”

(Yes – 3 year olds consider their cats to be part of their families and those of us who are pet lovers would probably agree.)

Later, we asked the children to tell us what a family is:

“People.”

“Yes, but what makes these people a family?”

“Daddy said a bad word in the car.”

(Have I mentioned that 3 year olds will also divulge every single secret, embarrassing, and humiliating moment that they see or hear to their classmates and their teacher?  Because they do.)

“Yes – Daddies are part of families.  Anyone else know what a family is?”

“A mommy and a daddy and a baby.”

“What happens when the baby becomes a big kid?  I’m not a baby and I have a family.”

“A family is people who live together.”

“My Nonna and Nonno live in Italy.”

“So families are people who live together but it can also include people who don’t live together?”

“Santa is going to bring me an umbrella!  I’m so excited!”

(Yes, a child actually said they were excited that Santa was going to bring them an umbrella.  And yes, young children can’t stay on topic for long.)

Tips to Discuss Family with the Little Ones in Your Life:

  1. Keep it short, simple, and brief.  Young children can’t handle long explanations and they don’t want to hear the exceptions to the norm.  If something comes up and they ask about it, then feel free to discuss it.  But otherwise, keep it short and sweet.
  2. Get Prior Knowledge.  Instead of starting a discussion with “A family is ______”, the teachers asked the children.  As each child added a bit to the discussion, the teachers helped them fully develop and express their ideas.  This helps them with critical thinking skills.
  3. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.  When asked to draw her family, one girl drew herself as a princess with the sun shining behind her.  For her, the princess was much more interesting at the time than drawing her family – and that is OK.  We don’t sweat the small stuff.
Do you have experience discussing family or genealogy with young children?
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My Views on Family History Have Changed

Note: This is a long, sometimes rambling post that is all my opinion.  Hopefully, some of it actually makes sense.

I had a dream about my mom last night – seems I’m having more and more dreams about her lately.  Sometimes they are good dreams.  Sometimes they are nightmares.  But when I wake up, the feeling is always the same.  Like air suddenly can’t fill my lungs because a ton of bricks has fallen on my chest.  The realization then hits that she isn’t just in the next room, probably reading a book or watching M.A.S.H on TV like she always did when her insomnia kept her awake.  I wouldn’t be able to just wrap my blanket around my body and pick a spot in the living room to sit with her for a while.  It always takes me a few minutes to push the feeling out of my mind and focus on the day.

Since my mom’s passing, I can’t seem to do genealogy without thinking about her.  I can’t look at a pedigree chart and resist cringing when I see her death date there.  I can’t discover something new without having a feeling of hollowness because she isn’t here for me to share the moment with.  Mom was never really interested in genealogy or family history and was often unable to see things as objectively as I could, but she did humor me as much as she could tolerate when I did talk about genealogy.  Her knowledge of history came in handy too and we could bounce ideas off of each other.

I’ve always known that my mom was my ancestor, but the word has always felt old and distant to me.  When I searched for ancestors, it felt like I was searching for people in another time, far away from my own.  I was searching for people I didn’t know and even though I’ve always felt a connection, a pull, a well of inspiration from these people who are my ancestors, I’ve never felt like they were close to me.  Even when dealing with my own grandparents – my mom’s parents died when I was just a baby, my paternal grandmother got dementia just after I started taking my first steps and although she was alive, she was never herself after that, and my paternal grandfather seemed like this husky voiced old man who lived across the country and had a funny accent.  While I wanted to learn more about these people, there was always a disconnect there.  Sure, they had influenced who my parents were as individuals, but they still felt far away – like a story from a book.  I knew that their influence, their choices, their actions had affected me – which more times than not made me proud, but they still felt far away.

To think of my mom as an ancestor just feels… strange.  My mom is a huge influence in who I am as a person – of my very being.  Because of her, I am a passionate, stubborn, often loud vocally person.  I become easily obsessed with things I love.  I am enthusiastic.  I feel the need to understand how things work and why.  I spread myself too thin sometimes.  I can think on my feet, especially in emergencies.  I plan out everything and I hate deviating from the plan.  I’m a control freak and I hate surprises.  I am this way because of my mom.  Her life had a direct impact on me.

How could I possibly call her an ancestor?  She isn’t distant or far away.  She isn’t from a history book.  But as the days and weeks and months pass, my mom starts to feel more distant and far away.  A panic almost seems to set in as I realize how few pictures I have or how I should have written everything she said down.  I almost feel in a rush to record her story – like if I don’t it will disappear and be lost forever.

Two years ago, before my mom was sick, before my mom was gone, I recorded my family history and genealogy because it was interesting.  Because it helped me feel a sense of belonging.  Because the stories gave me strength and inspiration.  Because it was like a challenge or game of detective – how much could I uncover?  What could I find?  Could I decipher that document?  It wasn’t a need but a want.  If I didn’t find it, someone else would.  Like the stories from my family’s past was a treasure chest waiting to be found – sure, I could dig it up, but if I didn’t, someone else would.

I was preserving my family history out of choice.

But now it genealogy and family history are needs for me.  If I don’t record it… if I don’t protect it… if I don’t preserve it… then who will?  I feel anxious to record the stories of my mom, of who she was, my memories of her – like I’ll somehow forget it all if I don’t.

Someday, I will have children and sometimes I fear they’ll view my mom as this far away, distant person.  Like an ancestor.  I can’t let that happen.

Thoughts?  Did I make any sense whatsoever?  Have your views and/or reasons for why you research ever changed?

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