The number one question I’ve been asked in the last month has been, “How do you like retirement?” Quickly following that question is one wondering what I do with all my time. My answers to the 2 questions are ‘loving it’ and ‘researching my family’. Since they rarely understand that I could spend all of my time working on my family history, I quickly follow my answer up with the fact that I’m volunteering at the Nemaha County Historical Society.
For me, researching my family history is like doing a jigsaw puzzle.
Do you like putting together a puzzle? Are you glued to that puzzle and not realizing how much time you have spent looking for that one piece? After finding what you think is the right piece and struggle to make it fit, do you finally give up realizing that it just isn’t the right shape or the colors don’t match exactly? And then you start the process all over again looking for that one piece?
If so, then you have an idea of what genealogy is like. Unlike a puzzle with a fixed number of pieces, the number of people in a family history project grows as you go back a generation and grows even more when tracking descendants and spouses. Thus, a genealogy is never done — there is always someone else to research or another piece of information to find and add.
Right now, my piece of the puzzle is in Kentucky prior to 1800. I’m trying to find my James Crawford in the midst of several other James Crawfords in the same area of Kentucky. I’m relearning some U.S. history as I’m working with records in the 20 years after the revolutionary war as well as an area settled by those who came across the Cumberland Gap (think Daniel Boone). Like that puzzle, I’m searching thru my pieces (court, land, marriage, tax records, etc.) to find one that might fit. Then I compare all of the information to see if it truly could be my James — similar to color matching on a jigsaw puzzle. If it doesn’t fit, I start the process over and look for another piece.
Even if I magically find that piece for James Crawford in Kentucky, the puzzle isn’t done. I can either move on to James’ parents or switch to one of my other lines — many of which take me right back thru early Kentucky. Or, I could be really adventurous and research one of several SMITH women in my tree.
As one of the genealogy jokes says:
“Done! Everything in the family tree has been found and everything is perfectly organized, including the photos,” said not genealogist EVER!