Saturday, June 22, 2013

Family Fatigue

There comes a point in every project when it appears the work could go on, but—and this is the sticking point—the will to do so is flagging.

Since starting this series on January 4, I’ve written about a family I described as “mostly the same as your families—except some ways.”

Those “some ways” included immigration from Maine around the Horn to California; chasing the Gold Rush, away from family back in Wisconsin; living with injuries causing blindness—and in one case, deafness too—and getting in on the leading edge of sales for that latest innovation, automobiles.

It’s been an enjoyable project, this memory lane journey through the Bean family history. Well…for the most part. Sometimes, it touches home too closely, but we all need to do something like that from time to time.

The hard part is knowing that I have, literally, over a hundred photographs still screaming at me from inside Bill Bean’s box of collected memories. Dare I say the people they represent still want their stories told?

man in business suit hat glasses standing in front of multi story building in 1930s

Like this self-possessed businessman, decked in his three-piece suit and hat, perhaps posing in front of the very building in which he has built his reputation—who is he? It’s hard to admit I’ll probably never know.

Or take this young woman with wavy dark hair flowing behind her in the wind: will her relatives ever find this picture of her youth? I can imagine—actually, I’ve been witness to this very scenario, myself—a grandmother incapacitated in a convalescent hospital, whose aides see her only as a “Crabbit Old Woman” and can’t look beyond the face they see now to the person she always was.

young woman standing outdoors with puppy

Of course, I could have done more research. There is a world of online resources for historic newspapers, and Bill Bean’s name alone could yield many more stories. I still owe myself another research trip to the Bay area to follow up on Bill’s twin brother Sam’s own story, too.

However, sometimes family history research fatigue sets in, and the project no longer seems as fresh as it once did.

Knowing that, at a later date, more online resources may help me delve further into the mysteries in Bill Bean’s photograph box, I’m standing my ground now and bidding the entire Bean family—and all their potential additional stories—goodbye at this point.

It has been a heartwarming yet pensive journey for me, and I hope it was well worth the time for you as you joined me over the past several months.

We’ll head in a new direction with tomorrow’s post. But for now, we’ll give ourselves permission to lay this family’s stories down to rest.

After all, isn’t that the best antidote to fatigue?  


  1. My first thought was "Hey! That's Mary!" in the second photo - not sure of it - but it could be.

    Then I thought, can we ID the building, but I got tired thinking about it, so I understand the "fatigue" thing. Maybe later. :)

    Can't wait to see what you have going in the next series!! Seems like your Readers really helped ID some of the photos in this one. I'm sure if/when you post the others, those same readers and others might help break down the mysteries.

    1. That's exactly what I thought at first, Iggy: that it might be Mary!

      Now...if only we could figure out who Mary was...

    2. I have something I am exploring for the chap in the photo - Charles and Clyde Nance were Samuel and Celia's g-g?-grandchildren and lived in Alameda (in 1940) The 1940 US census shows Charles was a building superintendent for a "department store."

      It's a long shot - but hey... :)

      Perhaps "Mary" is in this line...

  2. Yes, some people will only be remembered as long as their stories can be told, but as they say sometimes you have to "abandon" a project although it is difficult to do so.

    1. Grant, I try to think of it as something less cold, stark, and final as "abandon." In this age of online research, I've found that, if I set aside a line in which I've become stuck at the moment, then come back to it a few months--or even years--later, something is bound to come up! Actually, often, it results in making quite a bit of headway.

      Remembering peoples' stories is actually at the level of a mission in my book. Once I know a person's story, I can't bear to let it fade into oblivion.

      You certainly have got hold of a family story that deserves being remembered!

  3. I've so much enjoyed reading your stories about the Beans. I feel that I know them. I won't forget Bill or Sam or the Marfan syndrome. About "family fatigue," which is quite understandable -- I often have to remind myself that genealogy is infinite. There are always more relatives and more stories. Telling one story is like taking one thimble full of sea water from the ocean.

    I tell myself that it's all right to leave one trail, and maybe return later. The water is always there, and always flowing.

    Thanks for all your thoughtful expressions.

    1. Mariann, what a succinct way to put it! I love your "thimble" analogy...and on the other hand, will work hard to keep myself from slipping into that melancholy of facing such a hopelessly unattainable task!

      After all, if we don't lay down these stories for someone else to find, nothing will have been there to pass down to the next generations.


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