Whenever grand occasions like holidays loom on our calendars, we like to include gatherings not only for friends, but for family. Sharing in the holiday cheer seems an American response to Christmas, and there often are plans to get together with extended family. Once everyone is gathered and has caught up on each other’s news and accomplishments, often thoughts turn to those who are not here—the ones living far away, or who are gathering with the other side of their family this year.
Eventually, we get to thinking about the ones who aren’t here this year, weren’t here last year, and will never be able to be here for future Christmases: the grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles and others whom the family has lost. In a family gathering, the discussion usually turns to reminiscences—but in a genealogist’s mind, those memories are embedded with much more detail.
We are the ones who want to know the details.
It’s in this quiet week between the two holidays—Christmas and New Year’s Day—that I often turn to all that genealogical data I’ve accumulated over the years, searching for unfinished business and leads for possible stories yet to be discovered.
You know how it is. There has inevitably been that line you’ve been working on—doing great, in fact…until you hit that brick wall. Then you set that project aside and went on to something else.
By the end of the year, there is a laundry list of unfinished projects—smashed vehicles on the side of the research road, crushed and rebuffed by that proverbial brick wall.
This is the week I go back and gather up those lost ends, mainly in the hope that a new year will reveal new resources to help me find more of those missing pieces of my brick wall puzzle.
Although I’ve spent a lot of time, this year, researching my Tully family in Chicago, I’ve still been left with impassible obstacles. Every time I tackled this line in the past, though, I was stopped with that same problem—and then, in a year or so, was able to pick up and get back on the research trail again. Next year will be no different. Something will spring up that was left unnoticed before. Another distant cousin will pop up with an unexpected e-mail and provide a piece missing from the story. More data will be scanned, digitized, placed online, or transcribed for easier searching.
These missing pieces will be found.
While those few in my tiny family are, unfortunately, far away in real life, the extended family that still lives on in my heart becomes those whose memory I linger upon during this quiet holiday afterglow.