The Great Genealogical Need

For those of you that are experienced genealogists and have so far weathered the storms of years of research through dusty archives, old Bibles, sweet ancient relatives with unreliable memories, cold cemeteries, civil war records and all sorts of Vital Records, and who are now in the ‘nirvana’ of online research…this article is for you.

Who have you introduced, of late, to this most exciting and worthwhile personal and family past-time, next to the nurturing of our immediate family of course?

May I ask respectfully, but with conviction, when was the last time you shared with somebody close to you a heart warming story about one of their direct, but deceased, ancestors: Perhaps something that they have never heard before? When did you last take a grandson or granddaughter to visit a cemetery, or an old church where they could see some old baptismal records, or to the Social Security Death Index(SSDI) and Social Security Death Records(SSDR) offices, or some other place of relevant interest?

For that matter, again with respect, when was the last time you shared with somebody, who does not get involved with what you know to be of great personal value, something of a ‘testimonial’ about what is going on in the earth in relation to those who are responsible for their being here in the first place???

Of the thousands that somehow do commence the pursuit of genealogy (family history), only few ‘survive’. There are many reasons for this high ‘mortality rate’. One of the most often quoted is, “it simply takes too much of my time”. It’s true! Genealogy does consume time, and lots of it. But this is more than just a search for names, dates and places; it is a search for the discovery of our own identity, and in a sense, the discovery of our nation, as we seek for those of our ancestors who left their footprints somewhere in time. Unfortunately the ‘apprentices’ get worn out before they discover the true joy of this ‘recreation’. This should be genealogical ‘recreation’, not genealogical ‘work’.

What is needed to maintain the interest and commitment of our ‘new’ colleagues? The answer is simple: They need to find the ‘stories’ of their ancestors, not just the data. It’s the stories that will keep them coming back, back to the genealogical libraries, online facilities, the churches, the cemeteries, back to those Vital Records, back to their living ancestors, back for more. But they’ll need more data won’t they? Yes they will, because the data will help them to find the stories.

Encourage them not to get lost in those early days on all the collateral lines, dealing with cousin ‘this’, and second cousin ‘that’. The almost irresistible emotional attraction lay in the sagas of the direct ancestors; the men and women from whom they sprang.

It will help if they understand that each of us is a physical and ‘spiritual’ composite of those who have gone before. We need to encourage them to look for the stories that are behind the names, dates and places, so that they can begin to see and feel who they really are: To see the character traits in ancestors, that they recognize in themselves, otherwise, researching the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), the Social Security Death Records (SSDR), the myriad of Vital Records such as birth, death and marriage certificates, old church baptismal records and the like, old wills, probate documents and shipping lists, will simply wear them out. Rather than searching through the cemeteries for those interesting headstones, they’ll be buried under one.

It may come as a surprise to many of you, but genealogical research needs every advocate and devotee possible. Why? Because the fact is, that the more researchers there are, the more records we discover and the more relevant research we produce.

Since the first Genealogical Society was established back in 1836, more pages of research have been produced than existed in the world at that time. For history to make a contemporary contribution, whether family history or the history of communities or nations, it has to be researched, written about and indexed. It has to be made available, to be given ‘true’ meaning, by being able to be absorbed into the lives of each of us; to touch us, to motivate us, or perhaps to cause us to revile at certain practices of the past. History, and its records, cannot be allowed to lie dormant and unused.

If you are one of those who has a life-time membership at the SSDI or SSDR etc, and you are known in geneological circles from New York to San Francisco, and you are in the Guinness Book of Records for the most names submitted to the IGI, please ask yourself, notwithstanding all the data you have collected, is it not the stories about your direct ancestors that really touch you, and help to fill your heart and mind with the wonder of all that has come to you through them?

Well, if this strikes a chord with you, please, make up your mind today, that you will do something that will stimulate another person’s interest? You might just add another valuable researcher, perhaps the best yet, to Genealogical research?