Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Supplemental Study

Sometimes, it's not just enough to hit one's goal. Sometimes, we are gluttons for more. When it comes to membership in lineage societies like the Daughters of the American Revolution, that genealogical extra-helping-of-pie-after-Thanksgiving-Dinner is called a Supplemental Application. And I'm just the one to do it.

You may remember my joyful—at last!—induction into the DAR, just last December. I was not alone in joining the local chapter; my daughter was inducted at the same time. Unlike myself, with my paternal line's immigrant ancestors arriving on these American shores a mere hundred thirty years ago, my daughter boasts a heritage with Patriot roots on both sides of her ancestry. In fact, that paternal line comes with not one, but two Patriots who served in the American Revolution.

For those DAR members who wish to link with additional Patriot ancestors, it is permissible to submit application for these supplemental lines. I've already mentioned that process has been in the works. But if it took me almost three years to get myself in gear and submit the original application for membership, did you think I'd vastly improve that time frame on the second go-round?

Of course not.

Oh, my. It would be my luck that the very focus of this supplemental application would be those worthy gentlemen whose lines of descent were pieced together back before even the days of wood-burning computers. Well, we did have Xerox copiers. But not much else.

You can imagine how far back in the stash of records boxes I'm having to reach to pull out those old documents. This is not going smoothly. Still, generation by generation, I'm unearthing those records gotten from decades-old research trips and putting together the application package.

Sometimes, I wonder if it would just be easier to send for the documents anew and forget about crawling through dusty corners with storage boxes.

Which introduces my quandary today: who thinks of such things when they begin their pursuit of family history ten, twenty, thirty-something years ago? We may even have been forewarned, but really, who took those warnings seriously? And that was before we had technology changes. It's almost as if it's a new game today. We may be able to bag our genealogical hunt much faster with these online resources at our fingertips today, but that also means the systems for storing genealogical search booty have changed.

And there's the rub: what resources do we have which can serve as interface between our old-fashioned storage of records and our new, electronic version? Short of sitting it out while scanning dozens of documents and—gulp—hundreds of (film) photographs, there is no quick and easy way to convert the old to the new. I'd much sooner put in the time doing research than slaving away at document conversion. But we do need to make the switch. We need a way to preserve the documents we've retrieved—and to be able to find what we've saved.

This may sound like a moot point to some. Those of you cool, calm, collected, effectively-organized researchers who have a place for everything and everything in its place may think this seems a redundant exercise. You may already have solved this problem (and if so, kudos to you...and I hope you are blogging about it so the rest of us can learn from you).

But what concerns me, as I survey the scenery that transitioned us from analog to digitized researchers, is: what's next? For surely, the disruption we've experienced in moving from hands-on research in repositories that presented us with the tangible proofs of our ancestors' existence to the online world of digitized records will some day present itself as a future shake-up, as well. If you think this transition was a one-shot deal, and now that we're in the "modern" era, we're all up to speed and done with it, think again. Just as the move into the computer age brought us into a previously-unknown world, it is quite possible we'll witness a next-generation volley of change, as well.

The constant in all this might well hinge on having an organizational system that helps us put our fingers on the documents we need, no matter what research system we use or what storage solutions we employ.

If only I had had the foresight to design such a system twenty years ago, I might have had my family's supplemental application submitted to DAR by now.

Above: "Ships Down the Sava," circa 1900, by Serbian Impressionist Nadežda Petrović; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. The research I did thirty years ago is coming in handy, I kept it all in a three ring binder, info hand written. Archaic I know but it worked. If you come up with a real good system let me know! :)

    1. Yes, that old research is helpful. Even now, some of the documents retrieved from back then still isn't digitized and online. Be glad you have what you have!

      Not sure I'll invent a really good system for you, Far Side. Organization is not one of my strong suits.

  2. Keeping track of sources is a skill and one that I do not have!

    However, I am intimately involved with the evolution of digital information storage and how difficult it is to "preserve" information in whatever form in a a format that is durable. The rate of change in the digital world is truly mind-numbing. Floppy disks are an example - can one even use one any more? What will become of "thumb drives" - I'm sure they will be replaced soon with something "better, faster, bigger". Obsolescence comes in months now. The only thing I can say from experience is that a simple humble "text" file seems to have more permanence than any other file format.


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