Saturday, January 27, 2018
Life's Too Short; Ask Questions Sooner
A week packed with genealogical instruction may seem like an enormous amount of time to bask in such a luxury—at least for those of us who relish such family history opportunities. All too soon, though, the week is over, and while much learning was accomplished, it often leads to even more questions.
I spent the past week at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, specifically selecting John Philip Colletta's class on researching at archives and other repositories because I have some unfinished homework yet to complete. Namely, that outrageous story of John Syme Hogue and his international crime spree calls to me to give it voice in something more expansive than blog form. Several world-shaping events and trends converged over his unsuspecting head at the very time at which his family sought to save his unworthy neck. The project takes on a magnitude beyond my current resources, and I find myself wanting further direction. Maybe even a few well-educated, experienced hands to hold.
The last session in Friday's class perhaps encapsulates my viewpoint as we wrapped up the week. Dr. Colletta called that particular lecture "Seventeen Repositories, One Life," and while he likely meant to infer a sentiment much different than mine at the moment, that was exactly how I was feeling. Sometimes, when we size up the research we need to do to tell The Story, we begin to realize the scope of the venture seems far beyond the grasp of what a researcher can accomplish in one brief lifetime.
On the one hand, the class has become my springboard to launch into—or at least rev up my enthusiasm for—getting on the road and heading to the repositories which hold the answers to my many questions about John Syme Hogue. It is all well and good to have such questions; it is unbearable to just sit there and stew over the fact that I am here on the west coast and my answers lie hidden in the archives across the continent—some, in fact, across an international border.
As it turns out, though, the class brought me to realize there is much more that I can accomplish in beginning that research than just waiting until the right time and price to hop on a plane and get to the source of the answers. For that, I am grateful. In fact, once I realized that, I had the antsy feeling—like, "What am I doing, still sitting here?! Get out and start researching!"—that I should just stop listening and start getting busy.
In some ways, I wish I had known to ask questions sooner—questions of the surviving relatives of John Syme Hogue, of the officials who might have remembered the incident, even of the instructors addressing our class this week. Time moves on, and there is no sense wasting precious minutes over such regrets.
On the flip side, I realize I'm now better equipped to move ahead—hopefully, rapidly—to collect what information I'd need to wrap up the narrative. I can't let my current impatience to apply what I've been learning hamper my chance to gain even more direction. Asking questions—especially research questions—needs to happen as soon as possible. And I'm game to jump right in and pick up the task again.
Learning by example helps immensely, and I couldn't resist adding yet another book to my home library: the updated edition of Dr. Colletta's book, Only a Few Bones. Of course, the murder mystery theme aligns well with what I am hoping to accomplish with the Hogue story, but the plus is that the author includes not only the story, but an appendix containing explanation of his research process, something I find to be instructive. I'll surely be learning long after this class is over—not to mention, continuing this learning process with question after question.