Monday, September 26, 2011

In praise of worthy genealogists

I came of age in the time of campus protests, disco balls and tie-dye t-shirts.  The phones in my parents house had rotary dials.We never owned a dishwasher (Dad: "Why do I need a dishwasher when I already have 3!")  Our television would display every shade of black or white and required a pair of pliers, not a remote, to change the channels of which there were 3.  Four if you count the public station.  When I wanted to communicate with my parents from college I usually wrote a letter (remember those..paper? stamps?) because long distance collect calls were expensive.  On the other hand my college daughter just picks up her cell phone.  Anyway, you get the picture.  I'm sure most of you have similar stories.  Bottom line, I am old enough to still marvel at technology that sometimes seems almost magical.
But I  came of age, in the genealogical sense, in the Internet age.  My research is mostly online. I store it on my computer with a specialized genealogy database.  It is double-click, drag and drop instant gratification.  I admit it.  I am spoiled.  So my hat is off to all of you who were researching your families before computers and cell phones took over our culture.  I would like to think that I would have eventually found genealogy without the technology but frankly, I doubt it.  To have to send a letter for every record then waiting weeks and months for information that would only maybe take me back one generation on just one family line.... well, I don't think I would have had the attention span.  I would probably have collected a couple of records, filled out a family group sheet or two and then been distracted by basket weaving or something.
So I have nothing but admiration for my genealogy "elders".  I just doesn't seem right that those of us who came so late to the party, should have it so easy.  You have spent decades collecting information that nowadays can be obtained in a few hours on the Internet. That kind of dedication requires a strength of character and commitment that is becoming as rare in our society as the milkman.  Or transistor radios.   Or vinyl records.  Okay, now I'm really getting depressed.
Welcome to the future!


  1. Love your post. I started my journey into the mysteries of genealogy research a little over 14 years ago. I had a computer, the internet, and a genealogy program for entering the data I found. But there was not much available online at the time. Most of it I had to get from microfilm at the Family History Center or send away for it. I got a LOT of joy and satisfaction from waiting for the post each day with the hope that a record for which I had been searching would arrive. It was like Christmas when I finally got something. I do experience some of that joy when I find something online, but it's not the same. I still love paper.

  2. And 14 years ago is not that long ago either but in tech years its a lifetime!

  3. Well said, Nancy. My grandmother and great-grandmother both did their research the old-fashioned way. I continue to admire their patience and perseverance.

  4. I enjoyed this post. I started young (back in 1974) so I did most of my research the 'old way'. For me, the best thing about the Internet has been the ease with which I can find (and be found by) descendants of other branches of the family. When I look at the family history book I wrote in the 1980s, I am embarrassed by its appearance (written on an ancient typewriter) but cheered by the fact that it had detailed source citations and a bibliography. Despite all the on-line resources and new indexes available now, I have not found much that I hadn't already found via the 'hard slog' way back then. I guess that means my research methods were OK!


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