Genealogy Tips and Hints: A List of What Sailing Can Teach Us about Genealogy
I have a cousin who is an amazing sailor. He lives on his boat, has sailed all over the world, and raced as well. Before I go any further I will admit most of my time on the water has been spent on powerboats, which I enjoy and are what my cousin not so lovingly calls ‘smudge pots’.
But in spite of this difference of waterborne transportation, we are close and I came to realize not too long ago that his sailing held many lessons for me about genealogy. Sailing and genealogy? Indeed and here they are:
1) Be prepared for the unexpected. The first time I sailed with my cousin I was quite amazed at the equipment, supplies, etc. he brought aboard. It was a beautiful day, but he brought his rain slicker. The boat was almost brand new, but he brought along two extra ropes and other gear with very foreign sounding names to me. He told me good sailors always prepare for the unexpected. So it should be with genealogists. We need to be prepared and especially be prepared for the unexpected.
2) Have a map of where you want to go. As a youngster, I always thought sailors basically just had to go where the wind blew them. However, as I experienced more about sailing I realized that good sailors got where they were going often times in spite of the wind. So it is with us in genealogy. We must have a map of where we are going, what we are trying to accomplish, what our goal and tactics to reach that goal are going to be or we will be at the mercy of each distraction that we discover in our research.
3) Use all your sails. When I first sailed with my cousin I expected his boat to have one sail. I was amazed to find all sorts of sails of different sizes, shapes, materials, and locations on the boat. I marveled as my cousin explained the uses of each and how he could make the most out of those different sails. Again, a good lesson for us in genealogy. We must use all our sails (all our talents and abilities) to discover all we can about our ancestry. To do our best for our ancestors, we must learn all we can about each ‘sail’ we might have to use to achieve our goal.
4) To get where you are going sometimes you have to tack. The first time I sailed with my cousin and we had to do a series of tacks to get to our destination I thought I was either going to go overboard with the changes in direction or at the least have to ask for a seasickness bag, but I made it staying in the boat and with my breakfast intact in my stomach. Back and forth we went, but just as he wanted, we made our destination just as planned. With our genealogy we have to know how to tack too. Our paths are not always a straight line. Our ancestors moved, married, divorced, had children, lost children, remarried, changed names, and more. If you think you can get to your goal without tacking you may well end up someplace you did not want to go.
5) When you can, run with the wind! On one of my trips with my cousin we were out on open water and had the thrill of running with a very strong wind. My cousin, at the helm, calm and relaxed while I was the proverbial white-knuckle sailor hanging on as we heeled and raced with the wind. After I relaxed a bit, I found this was one of the most exhilarating experiences I have had on the water. With our genealogy we need to be sure when we can that we enjoy the thrill of running with the wind when all those discoveries, data, and materials come together as if by magic. The exhilaration is wonderful!
6) With skill, care, and focus you can make it through rough seas. Some years ago I found myself on a different type of sailboat. It was a large catamaran and my family and I were headed out from the island of St. Martin to the island of St. Barth’s http://www.frenchcaribbean.com/. What should have been an easy, quick trip turned into a mammoth undertaking due to rising winds and huge seas. We often found ourselves in troughs between the waves that towered over our ship’s mast. It was a harrowing experience and as we finally docked I overheard the captain say to one of his mates “We should never have made that trip.” Good thing we didn’t hear that until we were on the dock! But we made it due to the skill, care, and focus of our Captain. In our genealogy we need to be similarly skillful and caring as we encounter rough seas of our own. It might be a prickly archivist, an unhelpful librarian, or a family member who holds several family history keys, but won’t share them with us.
7) Enjoy the ride! My cousin likes to say “The worst day on the water is better than the best day on land. So enjoy the ride no matter what.” I like to say anytime we are working on our genealogy is precious and wonderful so enjoy the ride and be sure to use all your skills.