Friday, February 22, 2013

More Than a Process Break

Have you ever spent hours in genealogical research, only to come up with…nothing? I may have talked about the need to occasionally hit the reset button and reorient to that original set of research goals. Evidently, I fell far too short of what was actually needed. I don’t need a reset button; I need a serious process break.

Maybe even more than that.

Take today. All I wanted to do was find a few, simple details on the family of Ella Shields Bean’s husband, Leon. Sounds easy, right?


You may be envisioning experiences of ancestors dropping from sight, going AWOL from the obligatory census records. Or changing names. Or having one of those impossible-to-spell-right surnames.

While I sympathize with you if that is your lot in genealogical research life, none of that is my case. After all, I’m researching a name spelled B-E-A-N. How hard can that be?!

Besides, I know exactly where this family lived: Redwood City in San Mateo County, California. And, for Leon’s sister, once she got married, life entailed a move to nearby San Francisco. Nothing convoluted. Nothing mysterious.

But aggravating enough to frustrate me. In fact, I’m shouting right now…I’m just sparing you the drama of reading it in all caps.

Hear me out, now: I’ve paid my research dues. I’ve cranked those old, broken-down microfilm readers. I’ve sneezed my way through tissue boxes accompanying my trips to dusty archives. I’ve…

Well, let’s put it this way: I’ve paid my dues trying to circumvent the kinds of search results you get when you are researching surnames like “Flowers,” for instance. I get that. Looking for John Flowers’ obituary got every florist’s ad in the entire historic newspaper collection. And every funeral notice that began, "In lieu of flowers...." Getting to pay dirt takes persistence when your relatives have names that just happen to be real words in English. Never mind Search Engine Optimized words in English.

And today? I’m looking for the Bean family. Am I making any headway? Of course not!

Yes, yes, I admit that researching a first name like Leon helps eliminate some of those thousands of worthless hits in the search results. But this time, I’m not looking for Leon; I’m looking for his family.

Think about it: when searching for Leon Bean’s sister, how many false leads do you think you’d get, if his sister’s first name was Blanche?

I rest my case.


  1. This is exactly the moment when I head for the fridge or to the mall....Macy's helps me a lot :)
    Kassie aka "Mom"

    1. sooner said than done! I'm following your lead: just enjoyed a coffee date, and am now out the door for shopping.

      Somehow, though, when I get back to my computer, I'm afraid my search for Blanche Bean is still going to be riddled with farmer's almanac quotes and 1940s cookbook tips...

      That can only mean more shopping and more coffee, right?! ;)

  2. Annoying, all right! As smart as google is why can't they figure out a way to let you search for only what you want? Lol! I'm sure in the future they'll have that all ironed out. I guess Internet has only been around 30 years, every year improves. Just keep searching.


    1. Yeah, Betty, you're right. I should keep it all in perspective. Believe me, I'd rather do most of my searching online any day! Even with all my frustrations! Just gotta get a handle on learning more tricks for that "advanced search" thingy.

  3. :0 As helpful as the Internet is sometimes you just have to smile and go on:)

  4. I hear you loud and clear! Oh, the days I spend so many hours in research when all I wanted to do was post a simple short story about moving from one house to another a mere mile away! I think I agree with the person who said "go to the mall," but I know I personally can't do it...not until I have found that confounded item I was searching for. LOL!

    1. Bettyann, that's when I need to keep repeating that mantra, "Fresh Eyes! Fresh Eyes!" I think not finding things is the data's way of prompting me to take a break. It reminds me of the times I've looked for a particular thing I know I have...then find it a few days later in the exact spot I've already searched three times!

  5. Ahhhh Jacqi, you made me smile with this one. I can completely understand your frustration as I have a few of "those" names as well. I can't tell you how many times I've cleaned off my desk and said "I'm done," and put things away and shut the door to my office with the determination to find a new obsession that is less exasperating and possibly simpler. But it seems it is never long until I think of something I need to check real quick on my computer and next thing you know, I have my files strewn all over my desk once more. As maddening as the challenge is, I think it is part of what keeps bringing me back.

    1. Good point, Michelle: it's a challenge. That's where the draw is. Plus that insatiable Need To Know. For me, that combo is irresistible--thankfully, trumps the frustration.


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