Saturday, June 11, 2016
The Grunt Work of Genealogy
One of the essentials of a complete genealogical study is known as a "reasonably exhaustive search." This is the secret weapon which cuts through the red tape of missing documents—and may even cause a few brick walls to come tumbling down.
If you have ever heard someone describe a "reasonably exhaustive search" while detailing a pet case study, you will find yourself growing weary, just listening to the process. It is indeed a thorough approach to research.
It doesn't, however, make for interesting commentary. While there are a few internationally-beloved genealogy conference speakers who have been able to turn such quests into lively narrative, the average research report for a reasonably exhaustive search, well done, can drone on, ad infinitum.
This is not to say it isn't worthwhile—or absolutely necessary—to engage in the process. To the contrary. The Board for Certification of Genealogists, for instance, strongly advocates a primary place for this aspect of research methodology in the Genealogical Proof Standard. Numerous genealogists have written about how to conduct a reasonably exhaustive search—for instance, this blog post by certified genealogist, Michael Hait.
The trouble is, while tramping through those numerous city directories, newspapers, manuscript collections, and attendance rolls at church ladies' auxiliary events—et cetera, et cetera, et cetera—I, as a blogger, become very quiet, indeed. After all, there's nothing much to be said while all that work is going on behind the scenes. Or, if said, it is more likely to be a remark over what wasn't found than what was.
That is the tedium which goes on in the background while we researchers pull out our bright shinies to show off to others who make the mistake of feigning interest in our progress. Dare we ever to mention the mundane details we've kept secret for so long? Perhaps then, we'd have no inquiries as to our progress at all.
Yet, what is it that attracts people to genealogy? More to the point, once those novices have discovered that, yes, indeed, there is grunt work to be done in this discipline, what makes them stay? For it is evident that not everyone runs, shrieking over the unbearable monotony, once they've uncovered that dastardly secret concerning this addictive pursuit.
Indeed, what makes us stay?
Above: "Reader with magnifying glass," 1895 oil on canvas by German impressionist painter, Leo Lesser Ury; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.