The series on NBC, “Who Do You Think You Are” and others on PBS or BBC, has given some great attention to the world of genealogy, showing people that you never know what you will turn up in your past and the path of discovery can take you places you never knew about. I just wish they would also take a few minutes out at the end to showcase all the hours put in by others to find this information. It is not done overnight and involves a lot of people and work.
I say this with the utmost respect for those that think of this as their hobby. Connecting with your cousins and having reunions, writing down your family history or printing a tree for your family room wall. Next you collected some documents and photos and created scrapbooks and family cook books. I think many of us began that way ourselves, we became interested in where our family came from and the stories we heard and if they were really true. These are all great things for your families and mine as well, but they are not the business of genealogy.
Yes, I said the business of. Not business in the sense of going to an office, getting paid or having a degree, though there are plenty of us who do. I mean that those of us who have been involved in genealogy take our research work seriously. We document, track down information (sometimes taking years), solve mysteries, complete puzzles and then we can tell a story. We learn that an eraser and the delete button are our friends and used often as we are forever learning new information. Books are written, classes given and businesses grown and supported. We discover people from different time periods, different lands, religions, cultures and backgrounds. We learn about not only who our ancestors were, but along the way we learn about ourselves and each other. It is frustratingly wonderful and can be immensely satisfying, but still it is work.
Oh but we have fun too. You see, we are in a socially acceptable addictive world full of people who love to share, compare and assist. We see this as a calling, to honor our ancestry and keep alive the stories of courage, faith, adventure and everyday life. We are public historians for our family and yours. Walk into a room full of genealogist and you will meet some of the most wonderful people on earth. Some of my longest and dearest friends I have never met in person but we have shared so much together I consider them family, all because I met them through this line of interest.
So though I consider this work in the sense it is not easy nor quick, it is also exciting and forever surprising me.