Sunday, May 18, 2014

A story of a Professional Genealogist - Why we do what we do?

Once upon a time there was a professional genealogist who was asked why she became a professional genealogist?  What was her why?  Why her?  The genealogist sat back, took a breath, and then spoke from the heart.  Here is her story and why.

My why starts with why I started to study my family in the first place.  A quick background, my sister Marie and I are the only children of our parents, my mother was an only child, and my father only had one brother, Uncle Joe.  We are a small family, and we had moved away from most of our relatives before I was born.  Marie's teacher in high school asked her class to research a few generations of their families and present them in class.  She brought the assignment home and started asking questions.  I, being the very nosy little sister, listened in on all the stories.  They were fascinating people, these ancestors of mine.  I had heard the names, but unfortunately, I had only ever met them briefly or not at all.  With all the stories, these people started to come alive for me, but I still felt very disconnected.  
You see Marie and I are seven years and seven days apart.  This may not seem like a lot to some, but at times in our lives, it has been an expanse as large as an ocean.  Luckily most times, that generation gap has only been as large as a raindrop.  Finally, seven years later, it was my turn.  Same teacher, same class, same assignment and something happened as I did my assignment.  I fell in love with the knowledge, the discovery and the process.  I was NOT satisfied with just that little bit of history.  I wanted to know more.  A budding genealogist was born, which explains the how, but not necessarily the why.  You see; I still felt very disconnected to those names I couldn't keep straight.  
My family was still very nuclear.  My father's parents had passed during those seven years, and I still didn't know much about the family.  I felt a little like the proverbial red-headed step-child, which I find amusing since I am now a red-head.  Everyone knew these amazing people, and I was out in left field, feeling like I didn't belong, like I was playing catch-up all the time.  I didn't like that feeling, so I decided to do something about it.  I was going to go way past where my sister left off, and get to know our past as well as she did, so I wouldn't feel left out.  This may not have been the best reason in the world to start, but it was MY reason.  I am not going to apologize for it, because it has lead me to where I am today. I was going to be a knowledgeable and contributing part of those conversations if it killed me.  
My why for genealogy has evolved as I have, but feeling disconnected will always be part of the core reason.  And my why for becoming a professional  and "why me" stems directly from that, I want to help people reconnect with their families and their families' histories - not just through pure research, but by adding the family stories and local history into the final product whenever possible.  By being able to connect with my clients emotionally, I can use my 30+ years of research experience to help them find their place in the family history and maybe find that they take after someone in the family after all - a rebel, a genius, or maybe a hero, their hero.
So, that budding genealogist took as many classes, read as many books, and learned from as many local masters of genealogy as she could.  She joined genealogical societies and Listserv groups (That's all they had back in prehistoric times.  LOL).  She worked on that family of hers.  She learned, studied and researched, until she was an expert on her father's side of the family, and earned her place at the family discussions.  She and Marie often work together now.   They learned to collaborate and share the family history, and really enjoy working with each other.

This professional genealogist worked at a Family History Center and founded a PAF User's Group (Personal Ancestral File - a genealogical software program).  She gave presentations at various genealogical societies.  She just graduated from Dr. Thomas W. Jones' Mastering Genealogical Proof Study Group with DearMyrtle, and is slated for ProGen at the beginning of June, pending her placement into a discussion group.  She will never stop learning to be a true master of her craft, nor stop helping people reconnect with their families and stories.

BTW, I changed the names to protect the privacy of those living.  I don't usually write in the third person, but this was an interesting exercise.  We should always know why we are doing something.  You should be able to convey to anyone, the why.  Here, I told the story, but my response to why - I know how it feels to be disconnected, left out, or apart from family, to not know your place.  I help people reconnect to their family and find their place in its history.

Leave a comment on your WHY!!!