Schelly, over at Tracing the Tribe, poses some very interesting questions, "Where would we be today if Alexander Murray Palmer Haley hadn't written "Roots"? If it hadn't later been broadcast on television all over the world, thus inspiring millions of viewers? If not for Haley, what would we be spending our leisure time doing? What other hobbies were important to us, pre-genealogy? Can you remember when we weren't involved in genealogy and the mysteries of our histories?"
OK, time for true confessions. I have not read the book, "Roots". It was published in 1976 when I was an undergrad and I didn't do much leisure reading back in those days. Too busy with course work. The miniseries was shown in 1977 (I was still in college). I didn't even own a television then. I think I may have caught parts of the miniseries but I really don't remember it well. I'm certain that I didn't come away from it thinking, "Gee, I wish I knew more about my family history". I think I did own a television by 1979 when the sequel miniseries came out but I had no interest in it and didn't watch it. I can definitely say Alex Haley's story didn't inspire me to want to find my roots.
But that's not to say I haven't benefited from it. If loads of other people hadn't gotten inspired by "Roots" we probably wouldn't have all the great resources that are available to us now. Without those resources I wouldn't know my family history. And that means a lot to me. I'm not sure I'm better off though.
Let's take a look at my life then and my life now.
I started my genealogy research back in 1996-1997. At that point in my life my leisure time was spent working out to exercise videos daily, Buns of Steel, Abs of Steel and Sweatin To The Oldies. I rode my mountain bike regularly (on and off road), I enjoyed roller blading whenever Michigan's weather allowed it, and on weekend evenings I went clubbing (jazz clubs mostly but anywhere I could dance worked for me). I swam and water skiied in the summer and took a turn or two on Waverunners. Physically, I was in the best shape I'd ever been in (OK, not exactly the same figure I had in high school, but close!). And, OK, I did my share of reading before bed and on rainy days (fiction, mostly romance novels).
Fast forward to 2008. I have no physical activity in my life on a regular basis. Occasionally I walk the dog. Ocassionally I go on a photoshoot that has me strolling for a few hours (that would be my weekend leisure time). I read about the same amount as ever but I spend all of my day and almost all of my evenings sitting at one of my computers. If I'm not working on web design, I'm blogging or doing something genealogy related. I've packed on the pounds and my blood pressure is elevated. My buns aren't made of steel. (I know I've just destroyed your image of me. Sorry!)
If I'm being honest here, genealogy isn't entirely to blame. At the same time that I got interested in genealogy I also went back to school and studied graphic design/web design, a career path that would have me sitting at a desk all day. Sometimes I feel like my keyboard is just an extension of my arms. My life is centered around computers and as we all know the human body wasn't designed to sit and stare at a monitor all day (and well into the evening). Still, if I'd limited my computer time to just my web design work and I'd maintained a good bit of my physical activity I wouldn't be in the shape I'm in. But genealogy won out over biking, blading, and Buns of Steel. My doctor would say it wasn't a good choice. It's hard not to agree with that assessment.
But what of blogging? My blogging actually has nothing to do with "Roots" and it didn't have anything to do with genealogy in the beginning either. My blog started out as a creative writing exercise and more or less morphed into a genealogy blog over time. I'm thinking I probably would have been blogging anyway even if not about genealogy. I enjoy the process of writing and I think I would just be writing about something else.
So, do I thank Alex Haley or curse him? Well, since I don't really credit him with my interest in family history I guess it's not fair to curse him for it either. I really have no one but myself to blame and I do plenty of that.
How about you? What would you be doing if you weren't researching your family history or writing about it?