A bit belated, but Happy New Year from Onward To Our Past!
This is the season for New Year’s Resolutions and I am all for them! That is, I am all for them for me as a person, but I do not do them for my genealogy. There are several reasons I choose not to make New Year’s Resolutions for my family history work and the main reason comes from direct personal experience.
Now when I make a New Year’s Resolution I think about it a lot and then I really do my best to stick to those resolutions to completion. So I do not go lightly into making them.
My Resolution Experience á la Genealogy:
One year I decided that if I was making resolutions for my personal improvement, etc. why not make a New Year’s Resolution for my family history work. So I did and as I do with all my Resolutions, I post them somewhere to keep them in front of me. This one I taped to my computer monitor. Unfortunately, rather than guiding me and being a beacon for my work, it turned out to be a significant folly and waste of my time — and I hate to waste my precious genealogy time!
I decided that there was one particular individual that I was going to focus on in my work as my New Year’s Resolution. So, naturally, right after New Year’s I dug in and began to follow my self-imposed directive.
This ‘quest’ was well intended and worked just fine for me …. for about the first week. Then opportunity came calling.
I started to receive a lot of significant input from some new family cousins I had connected with late in the Old Year. This was all well and good, I thought, but I placed their inquiries and information on my ‘back burner’ as I doggedly pursued my Resolution.
A few letters came in the mail and likewise I put their responses on the same burner as the prior inquiries. At the time, these actions did not bother me one bit. I was in pursuit of my goal …. my well thought out and important Resolution.
I kept at it, even though I was not making any particular progress on this quest and found myself beginning to re-plow old ground and become burned out on not only this search, but on my genealogy and family history as a whole.
One day I was at my desk, in a funk, trying to think of how to attack my Resolution yet again when the phone rang.
It was one of my cousins on the line and she was fit to be tied! Her letter was one of the ones I had callously placed on my ‘back burner’ when it came it. She laced into me, but good — and I must say I deserved it!
She said she had written to ask a simple question on some family history in advance of a trip she was making. I apologized and asked how I could help her now. I could tell by the L-O-N-G silence prior to her response that she might be more than just a little steamed at me!
Her voice held the hard edge of a well-honed blade when she finally spoke. It seems I had overlooked, or worse ignored, the fact that her letter held a request that I ‘give her a call’. She said she was going to ask me to send her some basic family history information and tips since she was on her way to a large family funeral. She informed me, in even icier tones, that there were over a hundred and fifty folks at the funeral, many of whom were family. She had wanted to talk to as many folks about getting involved in our family history work, but she since felt unprepared, she skipped talking about it. She then said there was nothing I could do now and hung up.
Little did I know that she would not speak to me for over a year and a half after that episode on the telephone.
In stunned silence I sat at my desk and happened to look at the Resolution taped to the edge of my computer monitor where it seemed to be mocking me! I reached up and promptly tore it into shreds, took it to the yard and burned it to ash. For good measure I took my heel and ground the ash into the dirt.
I had been blinded to opportunity in my pursuit of a self-imposed goal. Precious opportunities had slipped from my grasp, some never to be offered again. I took a moment and looked back at my genealogy website pages on Bohemian (Czech), Italian, and Cornish research. I realized that what I needed to do was seize opportunity as it came …. not try and control the future! That is what had worked so well for me in the past.
Now I let the tides and times, the hints and the clues, the cousins and the information lead me where I need to work at the time. This isn’t to say I simply work willy-nilly, but what a huge difference it has made in my work and my productivity. Plus those opportunities are tackled when the fire is burning and the iron is hot. Results are evident and burnout has become nonexistent.
So now my Resolutions are still made, but they are personal in nature. They may still be hard to adhere to and conquer, but at least they don’t mess with my family history and genealogy!
Happy New Year and Onward To Our Past®!