Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pushing the Genealogy Reset Button

Do you ever feel mired in the sheer weight of your own genealogical research? Do you yearn for a way to get all the twisted leads and false starts sorted out? Do you wish someone would emblazon the answer to your most pressing question out on the horizon, so you’d be left with no doubt about your mystery’s answer?

Yeah…I do, too. (You didn’t expect me to offer you a solution now, did you?!)

Enough jokes have been made about the Hillary Clinton “reset button” gesture to guarantee the thing its own niche in the history of the absurd. But I’m not so sure I’m ready to chuck that 2009 gaffe. It could come in handy in the midst of genealogical wilderness wanderings.

I need to take stock of where I am, and where I’m going with this current strand of my research. Let’s do a recap:

  • I’ve introduced the Bean family, starting with the most recent descendants
  • You’ve met Sam and his younger brother, Earle
  • You’ve met the boys’ parents, Sam and Maude (Woodworth) Bean
  • You’ve gotten to know Sam’s twin brother Bill and his love for cars
  • You’ve joined with me as I finally uncovered Bill’s wife’s maiden name
  • You’ve met Leona and her mystery husband, “Bob” Grant
  • You’ve gotten to know their mother, Ella Shields Bean, and all her challenges of raising three rambunctious children and being married to a successful businessman
  • You’ve shared Ella’s everyday life—and her greatest disappointments
  • We’ve traced the Shields family back from Ella Shields Bean through her father’s line
  • We’ve met some of Ella’s siblings and heard a few details of their lives

While that never-ending genealogical quest beckons me to keep moving backwards in time, I have to remember I’m leaving something out: the other side of the story.

So, before I find myself slipping away at hundred-year leaps and bounds, I propose we grab the Genealogy Reset Button and press it. Let’s roll this Shields family litany back to the point where Ella met Leon, and start again.

William S Bean Alameda CaliforniaThis time, we’ll look at Leon’s story.

Granted, there is so much I have yet to uncover. But I want to push that Reset Button, anyway. In the next few days, we’ll look at Leon’s family: his sister and what I’ve discovered about her so far; his parents; and what more can be uncovered about his home in Maine.

Then, looking back to that recap list, let’s tie up a few other loose strands. I need to look closer at Maude and her Woodworth clan—possibly examine any signs of where the Marfan syndrome gene might have manifested itself in the rest of her extended family.

Most of all, I can’t finish this journey into the Bean and related lines without looking further at Sammie junior’s own story—a story of the persistence of a teenager, struck with the tragic news that he would no longer be able to see or hear what surrounded him in his youthful world.

Part of my purpose in blogging all this information, as I go from family to family, is to get the research out in the open. I want to provide a place to aggregate what I’ve found so far, so that others working on the same lines may benefit from the material.

That, in itself, demonstrates a keen faith in the power of Internet search engines to bring others with the same questions to this site. It also confesses the belief that many hands make light work—even in the genealogy field. Whether crowdsourcing answers (or even guesses) to the dilemmas I’m most stumped with, or finding distant cousins with whom to collaborate, having the mechanism with which to be transparent in my research progress helps bring together those who are focused on the same pursuits.

And even if you, as a reader, are not pursuing those same surnames, you certainly provide the encouragement to continue the work. I hope that sometimes, what’s written here—or shown here, such as my mystery photographs—will encourage others to look for the story hidden within their families’ vital statistics.

Sometimes, being so engrossed in the multiple trails and myriad documents makes genealogy feel like wandering through an endless maze. Isn’t it refreshing to have a Reset Button to magically transport you back to Research Headquarters—to get a fresh start, to refocus, to reframe the question, to regain your footing, or just redirect the efforts?

It’s okay to press the Reset Button.

Leona Grant of Alameda California fishing trip with car

Photograph, above right: Bill Bean in an undated snapshot; his hand is resting on a boat painted with the name, "Empress."
Below: Possibly Leona Bean Grant; back of photograph bears date, August 30, 1941.


  1. It is always good to take a look back at what progress you have are doing great! :)

    1. Thanks, Far Side. Sometimes, it just helps to get reoriented!

  2. This post really makes me think. The truth is, I think it would be wise for us all to do this periodically. After all, over time, we essentially develop "new eyes" that have come with the research and experience gained over time. Great post!

    1. Yes! Michelle, it's the "fresh eyes" that are key. Going back and revisiting really opens those eyes to new possibilities. And doing that with list in hand is helpful for focus on which direction to point those fresh eyes.

  3. I love the idea of a "reset" button. It's one of the reasons I enjoy your posts so much. Your detailed accounts of your searches, what worked and what didn't and your little work-arounds are helpful and inspire me to look at things in a new way. Lots of food for thought here.

    1. Thanks, Linda. It's encouraging to hear that! Sometimes I wonder if I wander into the realm of "TMI"--Too Much Information--as I document all those false starts. But we know we all are bound to have those false starts!

  4. Hit reset and keep on going. I love reading about your research.

    1. I'm with you, Deborah. And thanks for that vote of confidence :)


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