Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Take a Deep Breath And...

A friend of mine just got back from hiking the falls at Yosemite National Park. I’m impressed with her accomplishment. I’ve stood at the bottom of those mountain trails and thought, “I can do this,” only to take a few steps and change my mind. Usually, my change of heart comes about halfway up the trail—too tuckered to keep going up, too phobic of heights to relish the slide down.

Some people find themselves in this situation in their quest for the summit while researching their family line. Of course, “the summit” is unattainable in genealogy, but most people never consider that possibility. They boldly persevere—just one more name, just one more generation, in this relentless pursuit. “Then I’ll stop,” they convince themselves.

Somewhere in the middle of their trek, they venture a glance at their surroundings. What they see scares them: piles of papers everywhere, with well-meaning intentions scribbled on post-its for some far-off day when they can get “around to it.” Added to this are bulging files stashed in cabinets from better-organized days. Computer files fare no differently: “Favorites” of sites whose only helpful data now are error codes and “Page Cannot Be Found” messages.

But who has time to clean up these broken links and “Round Tuit” files? There are more ancestors to be found!

When I caught myself in that situation, I realized it was time to stop searching for myself and start sharing with others. One way I wanted to do this was through Rootsweb.

I’ve mentioned before about the Rootsweb site. It has been a mainstay for my own work for years. A free site (now generously hosted by Ancestry.com), it allows people to post their research in a publicly-searchable format. While none of that material is certifiably free of error, it provides a starting place for other hobbyists to get a toe-hold on their own family trail.

The only drawback in my good intentions to share is that I am not a tech-savvy person. I’m not new to computers or the internet by any stretch of the imagination. That is not the problem. Let’s just say...I lack the confidence to jump from my trail on the “real” mountain of my own data to the virtual mountaintop of Rootsweb’s WorldConnect Project.

Taking a look at the narrative—just the history—of the website has enough technojargon to make my resolve melt. However, after reviewing several pages of FAQs, directions, and other comments, I’m feeling like—just maybe—the real English carries enough weight to overcome the virtual verbiage.

Make it to the top, this time? Maybe, just maybe, I can do this.

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