Saturday, May 27, 2023

On Procrastination and Serendipity


I have a hard time struggling with procrastination. Couple that with my tendency to trip and fall down rabbit holes, and it's a wonder I get any genealogy research completed. Sometimes, even serendipity can't rescue me from such downfalls. Still, I have faith that even those downfalls can be redeemable.

Last week, I accompanied my husband on a business trip to the far side of southern California. Though I'm not a fan of the desert locations where he would be working, I just needed a change of scenery, and the trip fit nicely into my schedule—mostly. As it turned out, besides my usual online meetings for our local genealogy society, I ended up attending two rather stressful business meetings of my own. Once done with that, I decided to take a breather from emails and other interruptions. This was, after all, supposed to be my time for rest and recuperation.

One of the emails that flashed by me, in a lapse of weakness when I relented and scrolled through my phone, was a note from Ancestry telling me that someone had messaged me on their system. I'm not a big fan of using my phone to access my Ancestry account, but I resisted taking a closer look on my laptop and decided to let procrastination do its therapeutic work. I would take care of this when I got back home.

When the long drive home was over, all the bags unpacked and everything put back in its place at home, I opened up my email to catch up after the trip. Since curiosity got the best of me, one of the first messages I opened was the one I had received from Ancestry while away. 

The message was one of those introductory notes from another subscriber, the kind that says, "Hello, I think we're related, but I can't figure out just how." When I looked at the details in the message, I saw right away where this person could fit into my family tree, so I knew it would be easy to provide an answer—and that I would love to talk about it face to face, if I could.

There was, however, one detail at the very beginning of the message which made me suddenly regret my decision to procrastinate on this reply: the subscriber mentioned where she lived. The minute I saw the name of the town, it prompted an audible response. Not quite a scream, not quite a groan, it was one of those "oh, no" hollers that just can't be held inside. Of all the places where this unknown but fairly close relative could be writing me from, it just happened to be the very place where I had just spent the past week. And now I was over four hundred miles away from any face to face opportunities.

I can't say that such opportunities present themselves on a regular basis. Take that back: I can't think of any time I've been traveling and have simultaneously received a note from a relative living in that same place, who just happened to be researching the same family tree. Call last week an instance of anti-serendipity, perhaps, but right now, I'm learning to hope for opportunities for lightning to strike twice.

In the meantime, I sent a response to that newfound relative—and opened up that portion of my family tree to see just how this person fits in. I discovered collateral lines which needed updating, like additions from the 1950 census and more recent newspaper entries. With an updated view of that branch of the tree, hopefully that will prepare me for a more lively—if not face-to-face—conversation. And, who knows? Perhaps I'll have a chance to travel back down south again, after starting up a conversation via email in the meantime. There are always ways to redeem ourselves after those cues we've missed over time.



  1. Disappointing! Oh well, you have "found" each other.

    1. Oh, it's not entirely over yet, Miss Merry. We'll see how the emailed conversation goes for now, but there may be a chance I will be going back down south in a few more months, turning disappointment into a matter of patience.


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