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.
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…