Saturday, August 5, 2023

The Re-Do List


Do you ever write notes to yourself? You know, those scribbled items jotted on the first piece of scratch paper your hand could find in the frenzy of the moment.

And then, once the moment passed, did you forget to read your own mail?

Twenty years ago...

Yes, there was a time when I wrote such scrawled messages. I even put them in a safe place to take care of—later. That convenient follow-though time apparently never arrived, for now that I've done a deep dive for one particular genealogy file—and I even found it—I emerged at the surface with many scraps of paper clasped in hand.

Some of those notes were messages taken during the inevitable family calls that an aunt or uncle had passed away—saved so that, when the travel arrangements to attend the funeral were taken care of, I could revisit the note to enter the details in the proper place in the family tree. In this same category, though on a much more cheerful note, were the many holiday greeting cards and family newsletters with details on the ever-mounting count of great-grandchildren for cousins living across the continent. Though I'd likely never meet those descendants, their names and special dates deserve a place in our family tree—when I finally get around to it.

From that era before online access to historic newspaper holdings, photocopied pages from publications small and large have their place in those old files, as well. Noted in the margin are reminders to glean the information from the text and add it to the family tree. Bernie Guinan of Grafton visiting his uncle Hugh Quigley, noted in the May 31, 1899, Grand Forks, North Dakota, Daily Herald meant I could connect those specific in-laws to the descendants of one of my father-in-law's Tully aunts, bit by bit piecing the family constellation together. Or I could follow the many New York City and Long Island newspaper articles chronicling my own father's musical career during the big band era.

All of which needed to—eventually—be converted to electronic notes in the family tree. 

But didn't get done.

When I went looking for that list of Flanagan burials earlier this summer, unearthing that one single file folder unleashed an avalanche of other notes needing to be attended to, as well. Let's just say those old to-do lists now need a re-do. This has begun the first step of a long walk down memory lane as I revisit the events which originally prompted those notes. And that's been a good thing, not just for getting those file cabinets re-organized, but for the mind and heart journeys the process has induced.

Sometimes, genealogy is not just for passing things along to the next generation. Sometimes, it is for us, as well. 

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