Sometimes, Life gets so messy that a brain cannot hold any more, a heart cannot bear any more. It might seem that that would be the least likely time to turn to family history, but strangely, when the complex gets even murkier, I sometimes find working on a family tree to be a way to sort life back into order.
Perhaps it's the same mechanism some people find operative in knitting. A simple process, it takes a long mess of string, organizes it into a semblance of order, then uses simple tools to create something new through a routine process of repeated steps. Once a person gets the knack of it, knitting can become almost mindless—letting the hands be productive while the mind wanders elsewhere.
There are some parts of constructing a family tree which can be almost as routine as knitting. The endless string of inputs would be the stream of digitized documents which need to be checked and compared with what we already know about our relative. The decision point is where to attach each document—or whether to reject it as not applying to our ancestor.
And so I go, through the lines of ascent, click, compare, accept—or click, reject—and on to the next relative. The rhythm of the progress can become relaxing, soothing, while reminding me that, bit by bit, I am adding to a record of my family's story that, up close, may be too much to comprehend, but when I step back and take in the bigger picture, will yield the flow of people through places and times that sometimes swirl into a story which yields a message.
Sometimes, that message is about the simple sum of the hard work of a lifetime. Sometimes, it brings a chuckle. Or a tear. Or bestows a poignant lesson best heeded by subsequent generations. But it always includes the reminder that, if we don't preserve it, we won't be able to pass it along to others. It's when we knit together those family details, connecting them generation after generation, that it takes the shape of a lasting, useful creation.