Saturday, March 25, 2017
Being the One
Not all that long ago, one of my elder relatives had completed extensive work on his family tree. He and I did get the chance to have a few discussions about our mutual discoveries before he passed away. I remember, a few years after that point, one of the cousins I've since been visiting this week comment that, sometime when I come to visit, I'd really enjoy getting to look through all his notebooks.
Yes, I would. I'm still looking forward to that visit. Perhaps soon, I'll get that treat. But in the meantime, it reminds me of something.
There are so many of my fellow researchers who have no one in their family with whom to share their enthusiasm about the family's stories. They are consigned to a fate of having to revel in their discoveries alone. While all of us who are smitten with the genealogy bug thrive on being able to share our discoveries with fellow enthusiasts, the more usual burden we face is to be the only one in the family who cares about this personal history.
Such of us as are relegated to this fate realize a corollary to that dilemma: if no one in the family steps up to share our joy in genealogical discoveries, then who will take up our work when we are gone?
I always like to take the positive approach, when consoling others to whom that realization has dawned, encouraging them that someday, someone will step up to pick up where we left off. And there have been some times when I've seen that happen for some families. Just in the nick of time, a great-niece or distant cousin will start exhibiting interest in what we've uncovered, ask a few questions...and then a few more. Pretty soon, that person has moved from apprentice to fellow researcher to inheritor of "the stuff."
It wasn't until this week's visits with family that it occurred to me: perhaps for this cousin's father, I have turned out to be that one—the one in the family who finally steps up and turns out to be the one to carry the research task forward into the next generation. I never thought of myself as anyone else's research successor; I only thought of myself as carrying out my own research calling.
I've felt that sense of relief from some of my fellow researchers when they finally find someone to pick up where they left off—a sense that all that work wouldn't go to waste, wouldn't be forgotten. Yet never did I think of myself as the one who would pick up the baton and run this tag team race for another researcher. Though it was never a promise made, nor material passed on, in effect, that is now what is happening.
Someday, hopefully, I'll actually get my hands on that man's notebooks and see for myself the records he uncovered in carefully cataloging his family line. It will be exciting to actually see what work has already been done. But in the meantime, it is such an awe-inspiring feeling to realize one is a part of something bigger—a project passed down through the generations, with details too big for just one researcher to handle alone. Even more important, how exciting to be the one who enables the work of another to live on for at least a few more years. What a way to preserve the story for yet another generation.
And now, I'll get to be the one awaiting the revelation of just who it will be who will step up next to be the one to carry the work forward. After all, there will always be yet another generation.