Friday, January 3, 2014

What I've Been Learning About

Something else I learned: Little kids everywhere love the snow!
Happy little Crabtree kid, c 1930-1935

The more I think about it, the more I believe that researching my family's history is the perfect occupation for me. I've always been interested in history, but not the way it is taught in general history courses, as I found out when I first declared myself a history major and fell asleep in every single 8AM lecture. I like the history of people; their daily lives and relationships, and their connection to the world around them. I like to write, as I discovered when I changed that poor-choice-of-major from history to English. And I like to do research, making genealogy the most rewarding project I've been involved in since retiring from my career as a librarian.

I work on our family history every day, and I love doing so. I believe that the creating and learning involved are essential activities for my mental well-being. Here are some of the things I've been learning about lately...

Humility

I have long interpreted a letter from a second cousin about blind "Grandma Crabtree," as being about my own Grandmother, Edith Rae Giberson Crabtree, and wrote a post about her homesickness for the old farm in New Brunswick. After learning more about the birth and death dates for several generations in the family, I began to suspect that I had the wrong grandmother. Indeed, after checking another relative's letter in my files, I realized that the person in question was the grandmother of the second cousin who wrote the first letter, my own Great Grandmother Annie Kinney (Sarah Ann Kinney Crabtree), who was homesick for the farm.

Good news--I had a nice "new" memory about my Great Grandmother; bad news--I had to shorten the post about remembering my Grandmother Edith Rae Giberson.

Genealogists are always warned about making assumptions. 'Nuff said!

Reticence

My family will have a hard time believing this, but I am slowly learning that not everyone is as fascinated about family relationships and family history as I am. Honestly, I only talk about one-tenth of the genealogy stuff I'd like to discuss!

False Economy

Until recently, I avoided paying for subscriptions to genealogy sites, because there were plenty of free sites available. I knew that sooner or later I would want to try out the publicly available subscription to Ancestry.com down at my local library, but figured I would just save up some research questions for some future afternoon. Why pay to have something on my home computer that the library is already buying?

It turns out that there are many reasons why having my own subscription makes sense, and a good many of those reasons are rooted in the way I do research. First of all, I like to look things up any time of the day or night, so some of the outfits I wear for research are not to be seen in public. Second, I mutter to myself when searching for information and I often exclaim aloud when I find a person or event long sought ("ah, Oscar, THERE you are!"). 

I get caught up in people's lives--after all, I am right there when they are born (through vital records) and I get to see them grow up (census records), get married (more vital records), and have children of their own (more census records), and lose some of those children through diseases that would be preventable now (terribly sad vital records). And then comes the moment when I find the death record for the person whose life I've been following--I've been known to weep at the loss. My family just says, "Don't worry about her, it's just that Oscar died... again" [the first time being back in 1907]. 

I do not want to be doing any of this in the public library. Is $35 a month a reasonable price for doing these research shenanigans in private? Absolutely. 

Every Family Has Its Scoundrels

At this point, if you are still reading, you are probably asking yourself what happened to my self-proclaimed new-found reticence. I will wind this up, and I will be quick. 

They always tell new family historians who hope to prove family connections to famous people that they are more likely to find unsavory relatives--criminals and not-so-moral folks--who have long been hidden in the family closets. 

They are right. 

That's all I want to say about that (although if my sister asks about the relative once characterized by another relative as "the meanest man I ever met," I am willing to have a short discussion about him). 

The Kindness of Strangers

I have been so touched by the kindness of people I have never met in person--fellow genealogists who I have "met" online when doing this research. They have helped me most generously with creating my family's story by sharing their own findings, family trees, stories, and photos.
More about that in the next post. 


2 comments:

  1. It's not that I'm not fascinated, it's just that my eyes go crossy when you start getting into details because I lose the trail without a visual and you leave me in the dust! I don't know how you have so much patience to be doing such detailed research!

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  2. I would get lost without the family tree links in the tab at the top of this page that take me to a nice visual showing relationships. Of course, I also like to wander around among our relations at the WikiTree site, because I can make new trees for anyone with a click (and so can you), plus it will show me charts of ancestors and descendants of any person. Family history is so much easier now with all this technology.

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