Today is Grandparents Day! Quick–Save Them from the Pirates of the Pedigree!

In an aging-society, many of us are grandparents ourselves. Our own grandparents have been gone for years and we are often removed from the environment they inhabited. Are we reluctant to revisit their days? Do we share what we recall of them and their relationships with us so our own families come to know them too? Or do the Pirates of the Pedigree steal another generation away from our collective knowledge?

Next Saturday, 15 September, the Northern Utah Genealogy and Family History Jamboree revisits a popular theme: Pirates of the Pedigree. Please consider ignoring grandparents and their role in the genealogy scheme of things as a major, major pirate of the pedigree.

Genealogists look for grandparents–disguised as ancestors. And with varying degrees of success in finding them, what do you do? Keep looking? In the same places? In the same records–although you check a new index here or a different abstract of the record there?

As many of you know, in early 2004 my husband Alma was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given a few weeks to live because the cancer had spread into many organs needed for life. I shut down my genealogy business, fulfilled only my most pressing commitments, and spent the year caring for him. (I was a Registered Nurse in my former life.) This was my best effort of teaching my own posterity (imagine we have posterity!) what grandparenting includes.

Because I lost a full genealogy year as a care-giver… And because I lost subsequent genealogy months as I rebuilt my own health… My Genealogy Knowledge of new developments in research, internet access, production of new indexes and finding aids, and the latest search strategies being recommended by my colleagues and new genealogy lights in the market place was also lost.

What to do? How can I most efficiently learn what is new?

My choices:

  1. Read genealogy and family history newsletters and journals. I realize that I have an advantage living as close to the Family History Library as I do where the the genealogy publications are shelved in complete runs. And near four excellent university libraries where the historical journals are shelved in complete runs. I simply sit down at the table and read the whole run.
  2. Attend genealogy conferences and seminars close to home. This includes day-long trainings by staff and selected experts at the Family History Library as well as events where a variety of speakers present their new discoveries and share their successful strategies for finding hard-to-find ancestors. So to the surprise of many who know me, there I sit in the audience taking pages of notes and checking each reference suggested and each web-site cited.
  3. Tour vendors booths in exhibit halls at genealogy events. The newest, and usually the best stuff can be viewed in these exhibit halls. I spend time talking to the people who man the booth. I examine the books, CD’s, maps, software, and trinkets being presented to the public. And I buy those that apply to those genealogy research areas where I seek expertise.

Before a new discovery or the latest search strategy becomes riddled with logic, I want to try it on my hardest cases–undiluted and uncluttered with everyones’ ideas of how to adapt it to fit pre-conceived notions of what genealogy research should be.

This is the way I learned before 2004 and this is the short-cut to genealogy knowledge I chose in 2006-07. And I highly recommend this approach. Consider me a genealogy evidence grandparent. My advice–steps 1-3 above work.
And now I get to put all of this new stuff to the real test–in field research. Can I combine the old data squirrled away in family files and personal research collections amassed by researchers who have plowed the ground before with the newly digitized original sources being uploaded by libraries and archives across the country? And not wipe out half the pedigree?

On 9 October, I get to drive across country to OH, PA, KY, VA with another researcher in tow stopping at selected libraries on the way: Denver Public Library, St. Louis Public Library, Allen County (Ft. Wayne) Public Library, Case Western Reserve University Library seeking answers for hard-to-find ancestors. We, two researchers, won’t return until the first of November. (And by the way, we are also retrieving a library of 300 new genealogy books seeking a home. They will go into The Genealogy Library Center. Where we can do look-ups for our clients and other interested persons.) Do you have a research problem in these places? Call me. But quickly, time is short.

When a client brings me a hard-to-find ancestor. And a pile of pages reproduced from records and compiled sources. And the hope that I can break the barrier. I feel an obligation to preserve the integrity of their research. What a shock it is to discover that a claimed ancestor does not fit into the pedigree! What trauma it is to remove a pedigree connection, thought for years to be ancestral!

Pirates of the Pedigree have been at large for years–robbing us of knowledge, stealing dates and removing places from maps, using records to wrap dishes in or to build fires of destruction, eating away the edges and clipping with razor blades the famous names in our ancestors’ documents.

What a thrill it is to be a genealogist in 2007 and a genealogy grandmother with a posterity in 2007! My goal: Stop the Pirates of the Pedigree from any further ravaging of the pedigrees in my charge. Your favorite genealogy guru, Arlene Eakle

PS You can still opt in to the Northern Utah Conference–see my Speaking Schedule for links–or to the research trip to OH, PA, KY, VA–email or call me.

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