Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Junk in My Yard

No, this is not a rerun of my old Memory Monday post, “Junk in Our Yard.” This is something different.

You ladies out there who are reading this (and I admit that I don’t know enough about the male psyche to address this to the guys reading this): Do you ever find yourselves saying something or doing something, and then coming to a somewhat frightening realization that compels you to say, “OMG, I am turning into my mother”?

Well, I have had the genealogical equivalent of that. Only it wasn’t my mother.

Let me back up.

After a looooong week at work, I was looking forward to a long weekend - finally, some extra time for research! And after the NGS Conference in Charleston, a lot of tasks have started to pile up....

What would I do? Work on the Brinlees? Add some death certificate images to my trees on Ancestry? Work on my Genealogy Toolbox on this blog or on Weebly? Transcribe more of the Floyd lawsuit and add it to my Reunion notes? Or write up my “Surname Saturday” post....

I liked the prospect that I could pick and choose among these activities. You know, tweak my family tree in Reunion. Fix up a source citation or two.

I got to musing about my approach to research and all the associated activities (blogging, working on a website, organizing files, etc.).

And then it hit me.

OMG. I am turning into ... my father.

Oh, yes. You can read about him and the junk he kept in our yard here.

He loved to tinker. Sometimes he even got the stuff to run. But usually not.

Oh, there were some sweet pieces there - a shiny chassis (nothing else), some (now) rare cars, some really nice individual car parts that didn’t go with anything he had....

And he would go out, look at them, think what pieces he needed to go with them, go down to Dan and Martha’s gas station to talk about working on them and see if Dan knew where he could get the right parts.... (You can read about that here.)

Or he would clean a part, maybe replace some rusted nuts and bolts, hammer out dings....

And it’s all so exactly like what I do with my family tree.

My family tree is my “piece of junk” that I like to tinker with.

Now, before you get all indignant that I consider my family tree a piece of junk ... NO, I do NOT!!! But I am definitely a tinkerer, and I have just realized it.

I do get parts of it “running” (complete data input or transcription projects for some families).

But at the same time I do flit from one task to another, depending on my mood. There are “parts” strewn all over my desktops - the computer desktop and the physical desktop. And piles of “manuals” on my bookshelves.

It’s not that Dad couldn’t put together something that ran and worked. Once he built a functioning tractor from junkyard parts. (Though why we, who lived in the suburbs at the time and had a suburbs-sized yard, needed one, is another matter.)

Similarly, there are areas of research where I have really pulled out all the stops and done the necessary follow-up. But there are also so many loose ends, so many documents that have not been transcribed and analyzed, so much ... junk that doesn’t run.

And I understand why Dad did what he did now. Carpentry was his vocation. He was good at it and he made a living at it. Vehicles - tractors, cars, motorcycles - were his avocation. He was also good at that. But he did it for enjoyment, and deadlines and lists of tasks that MUST be accomplished can be the death of enjoyment.

Although I aspire to being an outstanding amateur family history researcher, it is important that it remain a source of pleasure and even relaxation.

But, to be honest -

There are just too many cars in my yard right now.


  1. You made me laugh--and recognize myself. Right on the money!

  2. What a great analogy!! And how wonderful to connect it to great stories about your Dad. Also, thanks for making me feel better about the '“parts” strewn all over my desktops'

    Think I'll do some tinkering this afternoon :-)

  3. Got parts??

    YEPPPER, I do!

    Very cute post!

  4. This sounds very much like my genealogy ADD! I like the idea of a tinkerer. I also totally understand why it may never be appropriate for me to be a professional genealogist. I love the ability to pick and choose my tasks without any real sense of direction. My everyday life is very full of regiment...the randomness that is my genealogy hobby is actually very relaxing. But, like you, I also have too many cars in the yard!

  5. Perfect! You are the mistress of analogies, Greta. It surely doesn't help that we send our own parts off to you to clean and polish.

    As an editor, I've often thought that reflected my genealogical work - especially cleaning up the research other family members have done. But I like tinkerer better.

    My only fear - what happened to all those pieces in your father's yard? Did they end up in the hands of another tinkerer? Or the junk yard? And should we even care if once we're gone no one else wants to tinker?

  6. Ditto... just, ditto. All I can say to this post.

  7. pugbug - glad to give occasion for a laugh!

    Diana - Yeah, I'm not sure whether thinking about my scraps of paper, etc. as pieces of machinery makes me feel better or worse about them....

    Carol - Hah! I keep hoping I'll have a tractor there somewhere....

    Heather - Oh, yes, it's definitely related to genealogy ADD and sometimes can overlap with it. I think genealogy ADD also includes times when you actually are focusing on one family, but you still keep hopping from one database to another.

    Susan - But often working on someone else's car parts is a most welcome distraction - especially when we are having a hard time deciding which of our own projects we ought to be working on...

    And as to where the parts ended up, I believe they may have stayed at our house in Highland, CA, though by the time we left they may have gone to the junkyard or to some of my Dad's friends. Sure hope one of my daughters takes a liking to my junk....

    Debbie and Denise - So glad you enjoyed it!

  8. Thank goodness you have finally diagnosed us!

  9. I think you hit the nail on the head for most of us, Greta!

  10. That's exactly how I approach my genealogy - it has to stay fun instead of a serious dull project.

  11. I love this.

    Such an apt description.

    We may have enough candidates here for a club...

  12. Love your post, Greta! I'm a "flit"-er, too. That could be why I never actually get anything "finished"! LOL

  13. Jennifer and Cheryl - Yeah, it took me a while to figure it out - and I'm just glad I'm not the only one!

    Shasta - That was the key to how I figured it out - oh, yeah, Dad's aim wasn't to fix the cars, it was to have fun!

    Dee - Definitely! I'd love to see that; the T-shirt could be "My ancestors are like cars in the yard ... you keep on tinkering, but they're never 'just right'"!

    Liz - It took me a long time to figure out why so many of my projects are unfinished....

  14. Excellent analogy. Come to think of it, I do believe I have become my father as well. Only it was not cars for him it was other kinds of stuff.