Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Kindness (most of the time) of Strangers

I'd be lying if I said that this genealogy thing was a piece of cake. Sometimes, it's just a pain in the ancestral butt. Like every fingerprint, the path to finding every ancestor is different. Things that work for one ancestor turn up zero results for another. Oftentimes, I can be bloodhound-red hot on the trail of an ancestor only to suddenly have it go cold. The biggest thing I have to keep telling myself is to be patient. Sometimes, I have to step away from that ancestor's search, or simply step away from my research entirely. Like Dolly Parton sang, "it's enough to drive you crazy if you let it." I think it's both healthy and productive to do this because, like taking a good nap or a well-deserved vacation, after doing so, I've found that my mind is refreshed and I'm able to take on the research with renewed energy and perspective.

Another way that I've been able to refresh my mind and work on my own research methods is to help others with their research. This, I truly love. When I'm able to help someone find an elusive relative, or decipher some illegible scrawl in a document, I get so much joy in celebrating with them! By no means do I claim to be an expert in any way, shape or form, but if there's anything that I've done or found that might be of help to someone else, I love to share it. Of course, this happens primarily in the ether that is the internet, but I can't really party down with them, but I can pretend.

Strangely, it was only recently that I began to ask for help myself - not because I didn't think others could help me, but because I wasn't sure if they would.  I don't know why I thought this. I had seen many people helping others with their genealogy questions, and I'd responded to others' requests for assistance, but I just never applied that to myself...until recently.

I've had such great success in corresponding with people, whether related or not, who have wanted to share their knowledge with me, and to get into the deep, murky trenches of my family history with me...and that's pretty darned cool. Some of them have been through Ancestry.com and others, through message boards and Facebook groups. I've learned a little bit of something from all of them, whether it was a new resource to research, a different way of looking at a record to draw additional information from it, or simply that everyone has their own unique style and preferences regarding their research, and that it may be different than mine, but that it's ALL GOOD. These kind folks have helped lead me toward finding documents I hadn't previously considered in learning about my ancestors and the way they lived and worked. I'll write a whole OTHER post on my latest discoveries.

So, I'm going to continue to seek out kindred spirits in this crazy world of research, always hoping to give more than I take, but at least making a fair effort to make an even trade. There are a lot of good people out there, doing great things, and helping others along the way. I plan to continue striving towards being one of those people, and having my interactions with them be happy ones because this is how Irene Barnes taught me to be. Perspective is key, period. No matter whether I successfully trace back to Mother Africa or Adam and Eve, I hope that all of my ancestors are proud of me, but more importantly, I hope that my children are prouder and that the legacy I leave them in the example of my life, not my accomplishments, is what they will cherish most of all.

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