Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Seasons of Genealogy: It’s Okay to Daydream

Last Sunday I wrote a post on “My Top 5 Genealogy Research Books.” Three of them are books I use to find resources and plan research projects and trips.

There is a lot of planning going on right now.

Also known as “daydreaming.”

As in: “It would be so nice to take a trip to South Carolina or Texas or Tennessee or Kentucky or Illinois.” Or: “It would be so nice to be able to take a week off to spend at the National Archives.” Or even: “I wish I had even just a day to spend looking up ancestors on Genealogy Bank.”

I daydream research plans. Moving Moores around a chessboard and connecting them with a spiderweb of lines to various associated families is a game I often play in my head. But my favorite daydreams are research trips: where should we go, how much time should we spend, which repositories, museums, and historical societies should we visit, and what information will I be looking for.

I’m in the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer in my research.

During the early season of my research - my “research spring” - I gleefully skipped around from website to website, shot off request letters to various repositories, got in touch with lots of relatives. The results were glorious. Ancestors sprang up all over. I identified where a lot of research had already been done and made some new discoveries of my own. I went from the bare dirt of almost total ignorance of my family history to a lush garden full of ancestors, dates, and places.

But now the season has changed to summer. Hot, sultry summer. A time of big ambitions but slow movement.

I want to do a lot of serious, organized, and sustained research, but things (work, children, house, miscellaneous appointments and obligations) keep me from doing everything I want to do, kind of the same way that the hot weather keeps me from getting my yard in shape.

This is not exactly the same as summer doldrums. My research is moving. And the thing is, besides adding what often seem like minor snippets of information, there have been several significant developments over the past year. To stretch the metaphor a bit (and I love to do that - even to the breaking point), these developments are the fruit of seeds I planted earlier.

I posted information in various places on my Moores, and a distant Moore cousin got in touch with me and provided the impetus I need to take a research trip to Greenville, South Carolina. I’m still working on the filing box full of documents I copied there.

I posted information on my Floyds, and a distant Floyd cousin got in touch with me who provided information on all of my great-great grandfather George Floyd's siblings, as well as copies of letters written to the Vermont branch by my Texas Floyds. This inspired me to get back in touch with my Floyd second cousins in Texas, who dug up lots of interesting court materials on our Texas Floyds from some clues I found in Genealogy Bank.

I kept in touch with some Brinlee cousins, and when our Texas Brinlees got a DNA match with some Tennessee Brinleys, we started working on those Brinleys to try to find a common ancestor and break down our Brinlee brick wall.

I posted information on my Normans, and was contacted by my wonderful cousin Rebecca, who provided me with a goldmine of family information when we met in Orangeburg.

I contacted fellow Fichtelmann researcher Mary Lou, who eventually figured out which Fichtelmann was the father of my husband’s great-grandmother and much, much more - all of which she shared with me. I followed her example to find a lot more information on my husband’s Koehl family.

But despite all of this activity, it feels as though my own efforts are just moving too slowly. I did almost no research at all this past week; I was too busy trying to get some chores out of the way so that I would actually have a free schedule for research.

So in odd moments here and there I daydream about what I am going to do when I have the time. If we get to take a trip to Dallas, where will I go besides the Dallas Public Library? How am I going to go about finding Elisha Berry Lewis’ mystery siblings? What are the next steps I should take to find the parents of my great-grandmother Susan Elizabeth Smith?

I call it planning.

Oh, and for the record: when I daydream of research trips, they are always in the chilly early spring or crisp late fall. Because I have so many ancestors in the South. And the South is hot. And I hate the heat.

Submitted for the 107th Carnival of Genealogy, created by Jasia of Creative Gene and hosted by Bill West of West in New England.


  1. I so love this that I don't even know where to begin, so, lets go simple:

    CLAP, CLAP, CLAP!!!!!

  2. Concurring and clapping with Carol.

    You do more with a metaphor than anyone I've known. Bend, stretch, twist away - it is a joy to read and reflect upon your words.

  3. Greta, what fun to read. So right with you as you dance thru spring and wind, and turn and twist thru the lazy hazy days of summer.

  4. If you want to go somewhere else in Dallas (well it's in Ft. Worth but that's only 30 mins away!) is the Southwest branch of the National Archives! Here you go:

  5. Carol - You are so sweet - thank you!

    Susan - Definitely mutual - I am a sucker for good writing and NR's definitely got it!

    Joan - Thank you - you are so kind!

    Patti - Thank you so much for the info - I hadn't even thought of that. I think I want to be really ambitious for the trip to Texas....

  6. Getting here late, so have to say ditto to all of the above. Wonderful post

  7. Hummer - Thank you for your kind words!

  8. A great post with lots of yearning we can all identify with. I think we all feel there are just so many demands that have to be met besides our research-- I've spent hours this week translating my grandmother's diaries, and often had to just punt for dinner. Poor family! You did a beautiful job expressing all in the metaphor for seasons.