For the past few months I’ve been buried in genealogy how-to: How to do what I’ve been doing for 25 years better, more efficient, and most of all…in real life (IRL for you yungins). You see, even though I’ve chased dead people for years, I’ve done it in a bubble and it has been a very solitary pursuit. My habit developed along with the internet, so there was always just enough available to keep me going and when I hit a brick wall I could just move to another branch. I was a data collector, occasionally using those well-honed analytical skills the Navy helped developed to sort out who was who in a messy census or figure out some other dead person saga – but still always using what was available online. Oh, and I was doing the whole single mom on active duty thing – so it all worked for me.
I knew there were records to be had that weren’t available on line, I just never had much of a need to hunt them down. And quite honestly, I was intimidated by the thought of walking into an archives or some other repository and looking foolishly unprepared. Then Bergen came into my life (I really do need to write more about him!) Because the records I needed to fill in his life story were not online, I did what I do….I went on a road trip! (If you didn’t already – this is a great time to read about that here).
But chasing Bergen throughout New York, Connecticut, and even a day trip into Pennsylvania didn’t really expose me to those scary repositories. The vital records and original sources that I needed were tucked away in funeral homes, cemetery offices, and court house clerk’s files. This was EASY! And FUN! And it was a ROADTRIP! Over the past year, Bergen nudged (dare I say pushed?) me into genealogy social circles as I sought help through online groups with some of his Norway research and even met a fellow genealogist for lunch in Seattle because she was an expert in Norwegian migrations. Dabbling in FB groups for genealogy purposes was eye-opening and humbling all at once.
But, back to what all this means now. It means I’ve finally settled on a thing I want to do as I grow up (notice I didn’t say when I grow up?!) Of course, it’s the thing I’ve been doing all along. Lifelong learning, travel, helping others, solving puzzles, writing, public speaking.…it’s all there. And each day is different. Each problem is different. Each solution is different. In the past week alone I’ve explored copywrite laws, Georgia headrights, Civil War service cards, and the websites of two local repositories.
I wasn’t sure how this blog, with its ‘wheretonow’ -ness would fit in to my goals and plans to become a professional genealogist. Most family historians and genealogy bloggers fill their posts with stories about someone from their family tree or some technical aspect of the research and “work”. That niche was filled – and quite frankly I’m just not there yet anyway. But lunch with a newfound genie friend was very illuminating. This is not a new direction in my life – it’s a refinement of the path I’ve been on for years. I’m still going to travel and explore new places, and I’m still going to write about them. Yes, there will be a lot of genealogy-related stories and words, but if you’ve followed me this long, you know my passion for travel and for finding the best fish taco on a budget. That will still be there. But I’m going to write about those repositories and conferences and other genealogy-related social things and how to get the most out of them – it’ll be a learning experience for me as we go. So even if a trip to Fort Wayne to hunt down that lost letter between Uncle Joe and his sweetheart is not your cuppa – maybe a day trip to Fort Wayne is…and I’ll have told you where to get the most awesome grilled cheese sammy while you are there!
Stay tuned for an article on my first trip to the Genealogy Center in Allen County and my upcoming road trip to Jacksonville to attend the 7th Annual North Florida Genealogy Conference! But first, today…all day in the Georgia Archives!