Thursday, January 3, 2013

RSVP For a Year With No Regrets

After all the rounds of holiday parties this past month, you’ve no doubt received some invitations asking for the favor of that small gesture no American can easily pronounce—répondez s'il vous plaît—yet handily resorts to abbreviating for “simplicity.”

Yes, that’s right (I knew my readers were a perceptive bunch): R.S.V.P.

Perhaps you received some invitations from hand-wringing hostesses wishing to nudge the situation even closer to the stress-free response zone for her guests—the “R.S.V.P., regrets only.”

While your holiday party season is undoubtedly now over, I want to borrow from that festive season and lift that “Regrets Only” sentiment for today’s post. For the moment, I wish to address that onerous task of owning up to my misapplied sense of civic duty in formulating what I knew better than to do: compose my own set of New Year’s Resolutions way back at that bright, shiny beginning of 2012.

Here, then, are my regrets.

For the sake of the traditional year-end navel-gazing fest, I will own up to that sense of civic duty once again, in reviewing the year-old list. While there may be no task master more demanding than one’s own self, I find that the reverse is sometimes also true: we tend to allow ourselves more liberties than we would those we hire to complete the same tasks. In both these aspects, I plead guilty…but then I get to wondering: who set me to this task in the first place? Was it a sense of obligation that led me to follow suit? I’ll opt for a more thoroughly thought-out plan for the upcoming year!

I say “navel-gazing,” by the way, from that sheer feeling—sorry to be so bluntly truthful here—of envisioning people patting themselves on the back as they recite their completed list of the prior year’s resolutions. I’m all for self-improvement—but not as a thinly-veiled excuse for self-adulation. What we accomplish would better be done for the benefit of others than the chance to once again pat ourselves on the back.

Okay, ahem, rant over. Here’s my list, now complete with regrets:

Resolution Number One: Giving Back

As you may recall from my post one year ago, I truly wanted to get involved in a number of genealogically-minded projects that would benefit the larger research community. After all, there are so many opportunities for us to participate in projects already being spearheaded by some respected, established genealogy organizations—this past year’s amazing accomplishment of indexing the 1940 census being one example. When we all put our shoulders to the wheel, we may be off to a rough start, but the collective effort, over time, produces beneficial results.

I did manage to participate, as planned, in some indexing projects through To warm up to the process, I tried whatever projects FamilySearch suggested, just so I could get the hang of the process. Then I turned my attention to one project that would ultimately benefit my own research areas: Catholic Church records in Chicago. What a bear! It was tough going, but I did what I could. Shifting from that project to one our local Genealogical Society was co-sponsoring turned out to be a snap, and I saw that project through to the end.

My game plan here was to get those indexing skills up to snuff by the time the 1940 census was released—but by that time, so many other needs were clamoring for my attention that my good intentions never saw fruition. I may have indexed a page or two of the census, but hardly as much as I wished to do—and that was even after setting weekly goals for myself to insure participation.

And those Indiana county marriage records I wanted to help enter? Well, let’s just say maybe that can be a project for another year. Same goes for any other FamilySearch projects.

Did I burn out by trying to do too much too fast? Perhaps. I know now to heed the advice for goal-setting I mentioned yesterday: Start Slow, Finish Fast.

Resolution Number Two: Researching Historically Significant Ancestors

I’ve written, a couple times, about my McClellan line from Florida. One of my direct ancestors played a significant role in the early years of that state. Among other things, this ancestor was one of the signers of Florida’s first state constitution. While I already had learned this from family stories, during the earliest stages of writing A Family Tapestry, I discovered that this ancestor, George Edmund McClellan, actually had an entry in Wikipedia. The entry was what the organization calls a “stub”—basically the beginning of an article that has yet to be written—and was just sitting there in cyberspace, begging to be completed.

Doing that was one of the things I hoped I’d accomplish in 2012.

I didn’t.

There are some reasons for that failure. Of course, first of all, an effort like that requires an immense amount of research. Some of the material I’d need to review might have been accessed online. But I think I won’t be able to do the task justice until I can actually journey to the state and thumb through the repository storing the legislative data which may include his work. Then, well, it was just an intimidating thought: to pull together material that has never before been assembled for this specific focus and put it out there as a completed project. The fact-check part of the back of my brain just recoiled at taking such a project too lightly.

But you know, if I don’t do it, apparently no one else will be doing it, either. So I may as well pursue this idea—if nothing else, in the hopes that it will be of benefit to someone in the future.

Serendipitously, just the other day when I was looking something up on Wikipedia, a header popped up asking people to consider volunteering to be new contributors to that organization. Of course, even though I was eager to pursue that idea, I was under time pressure at the time and didn’t reach for that bright, shiny digital bauble. Now that I try to find that same article and video on Wikipedia, of course—you knew that, didn’t you?—it is no longer there. After some searching, I did find the video here…but no further appeal with handy links to help people get started in this new role of Wikipedia Contributor.

Timing. Ya just gotta have it at the right time.

Resolution Number Three: Finish the Chicago Story

What? A resolution I actually completed? Wait! Surely there’s something missing to this story!

I did…I actually did complete the series on the Tully and Stevens family. All the letters have been transcribed, scanned, posted on A Family Tapestry. The only task left there is to clean up the mess—something I will surely finish this year with some planned posts about archival-quality storage.

Oh, I do have some little wisps of material from the Tully collection that I’ve yet to post. Those, however, are specific time-linked items that I’ve already planned to use for an upcoming Mother’s Day post, and for other holiday posts.

Also included in that yet-to-be-published pile are some letters and photos from distant relatives who are still living. In respect of their privacy, I’ve held off on publishing any of that material.

While I still have much to do before I can break through that proverbial brick wall and land squarely in the Tully family’s land of origin in Ireland, this resolution marks my sole chance to stand up and cheer for getting to check this one off the list.

Resolution Number Four: Still Need to Get Writing

Did I say I wanted to write a book?!?! Whatever was I thinking?!

Well, I didn’t exactly say that.

I whispered it.

But I still want to.

It’s just that I’m not sure it will take the shape of the story that so needs to be written: the story of Frank’s life and how it has impacted the lives of his children, how that legacy has been turned back around, and how it now makes such a difference.

That, however, is someone else’s story. And, if you want to get technical, all I promised in that last resolution for 2012 was to organize the material so it could be used as the basis for a book.

So I did achieve that resolution. As for the book? Well…that will need to be someone else’s resolution.

And you know how I feel about resolutions.

Above left: François Boucher, Le Dejeuner, oil on canvas, 1739; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. I am wondering about Number One right now--Giving Back. I'm considering working in a Family History Center one day a week. This is a decision I need to make in January.

    1. While no one can make that decision for you, Grant, it sounds like a wonderful opportunity. Not only will you have some excellent resources at your fingertips, but you will indeed be giving back as you work with others keen on the same interests. Keep us posted about your decision!

  2. A book on Frank's life has at least one purchaser!!

    You have an in-depth outline (your blog) and lots of research done (and perhaps there would be some fun research left to do, say a visit to Okinawa?) Publishing in LuLu or Smashwords is pretty easy and there is a tool out there that will "publish" blog pages (you can select and pick which ones to include).

    Don't be too hard on yourself! You done great!!!

    1. Aw, thanks, Iggy!

      There are so many resources out there now to help make such books a reality. That goal could be within my grasp...except that I would like to see so much more added than what I included in the blog posts here.

      My purpose here, for this blog, was to outline the material and come at it from the slant of family history research.

      However, the broader message of helping people see the value in their own lives and how that value makes a difference to others--well, that's the message the ultimate package needs to represent. As you can tell, there's a lot more to add before the story is ready for that step.

      At any rate, it's encouraging to hear that vote of confidence!

  3. I think you did good...I am not sure that the general public knows how much time goes into family research just to find a few tidbits. Yeah to anyone who volunteers their time to projects online or in a museum!! :)

    1. ...and you would know about volunteering for museums :)

      Actually, our local indexing project was a collaboration between our city/county library system, our local Genealogical Society, and our county history museum. Somewhere in that process, the contact was made with to become involved in making that material public in a widely-usable way.

      It's great to have volunteers come together to make things happen. It's even greater when the groups they volunteer for can come together to multiply that effort even further.

  4. What ever your path leads you on to keep all these resolutions will be interesting posts for all of us to read. I look forward to seeing where you go and where you start!
    Happy New year

    1. Thank you so much! And Happy New Year to you, too! I sometimes wonder if this new year will take us in some very unexpected directions...

  5. If I have a regret it's that I didn't set any goals to begin with. So hey, at least you had a vision.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...