Thursday, February 23, 2017
The Glacial Pace
of Genealogical Research
There is something about hearing family history researchers confidently declare their "research goals." Yes, it's nice that you want to pursue your roots in Sweden back to the 1600s. Whether you achieve your goal of finishing that project by next fall may not be entirely within your own control. There is the little matter of those other parties out there who may or may not operate on your timetable.
So then, the question becomes, what to do while being unable to complete those genealogical goals. Despite the well-meaning advice I've heard about not being all over the board with my research pursuits, I find it necessary to have a Plan B project in that back pocket for such dilemmas. Since it is near-impossible to force one's correspondent to answer an email or send a requested document in rapid response, researchers sometimes need the grace to know when to retreat or change directions.
While nobody is answering, where to turn next? In our case of being so close to presenting that mystery photo album to a direct descendant of the woman who created it, the story is almost all told—all, that is, except for the storybook ending that could have been, if the right people answered the call. Our only remaining option is to settle for a waiting game. Also out of our control, that wait may take a few more days—or months upon months. It may never see that hoped-for closure.
In the meantime, I'll put the pages back in the proper order, wrap up the covers in the ribbon which so neatly tied them all together, and tuck the album into a safe place. But I won't just wait; I'll be on to a next project.
And you know there's been one in the wings. Not as fascinating, admittedly, as the one we're wrapping up (literally), but you know it will be a genealogical pursuit that comes with a story. There is always a story, when you delve deep enough into the lives of ancestors.
Yet, it will be hard to say goodbye to the Penrose Hawkes family, and to Alice Hawkes Reid, who brought us—unsuspectedly—so many weeks of interesting tidbits about her extended family. Though it wasn't even concerning my own family, it's been a journey I've been glad to have stumbled upon. If nothing else, it's opened my eyes to the treasures stored in unexpected places—sometimes, quite far from the place family once called home.