Monday, May 29, 2006

I Love A Challenge

It's Monday evening and my favorite weekend is ending. It didn't go the way I planned it, but I guess that's life. You've got to roll with the punches. I had hoped to get some work done on my web site but it was not to be. My plans were preempted by family. Sunday was family fun, today was family heartache. I strive for balance in my life, but sometimes balances bites. If only we could have the good times without the bad!

As I write this, it's 91 degrees on my patio (which is where I am sitting). I happen to love hot and humid weather, or hot and dry for that matter too. The only thing marring this very pleasant, peaceful evening for me is the fact that my neighbor is cutting his lawn right now. I figure that just about the time he finishes, the mosquitoes will come out to dine and chase me into the house. Does that sound cynical? Actually, it realistic. I just visited the web site to see what the current temperature is and I noticed a link to "Mosquito Activity Alert". It turns out they have a chart that gives you a visual display of mosquito activity in your area hour by hour. Don't ya just love the internet?

So what does all this gibberish have to do with Genealogy, Photography, or Creative Writing (which is what this Blog is supposed to be about)? Well, I guess you could call anything I write "creative writing" so to my way of thinking, anything I want to write about is fair game. However, I did digress a bit from the topic I had intended to write about... which was actually on the topic of genealogy. We had a family gathering yesterday and someone brought a couple of old photographs they'd recently received in the mail. One of the photos had information on the back indicating who was in the photograph and when it was taken. How nice and tidy that was but it didn't leave anything much to the imagination. The other photo had the names of the 2 people in it written right on the photograph. One name was easy to read. The other name was a challenge. The two men looked alike and could easily have passed as brothers. But the handwritten name didn't fit with anyone else in the family. A handful of us gathered together and tossed around ideas until eventually we came up with one that fit. In the end we were satisfied that we had solved the puzzle and for me it was ever so much more entertaining and interesting than if the names had been easily discernible. That's how I feel about genealogy in general too, in retrospect.

Early on in my genealogy research I wanted desperately to find "The Book" that had my family's history in it. I remember being frustrated and disappointed that I couldn't find it. Little did I know that if I had I would have missed out on meeting a lot of wonderful people, learning a lot about research methodology, and most importantly rising to the challenge of finding and writing my family history on my own. I take great pride in my genealogy research. Like most newbies, I thought I could figure it out in a couple weeks or maybe months (if I had a lot of distractions). But I really thought if I put my mind to it I'd get it done in no time. How naive I was!!! But not being one to give up easily, I persisted. And today I feel a tremendous amount of satisfaction from having taken the genealogy journey. And to anyone starting out on the journey, I wish you a long one. It will be all the more precious to you if you have to earn it than it would be if someone handed you "The Book". Take it from me. I've been there, done that.

It took me roughly seven years to get to this stage of my journey. At this point, I've managed to trace all four of my grandparents' families back to the mid 1700s and I've found living family members in Poland for 3 of my 4 grandparents. I think I could find family from the 4th without too much trouble but I'm not willing to go down that road until I can find someone to translate letters for me on a regular basis. I've got more than I can handle right now just trying to keep up correspondence with the relatives I've already found in Poland.

In my opinion, the initial joy you experience in adding names to the family tree is nothing compared to the joy in finding out personal information about the people who owned those names and the family still residing in your ancestral villages. I've experienced my share of disappointment too, the biggest being when I found the last of the information I needed to connect the 4th branch to my family tree. I've missed the hunt ever since then. I still do some hunting, but it's just about adding details at this point. I don't feel as driven anymore. My focus has moved on to writing up the family history. But I don't feel as driven to do that as I did to do research.

In time I'll get it all together. Until then, I'll keep digging for the occasional details and working on the manuscript. The journey is just about over but I'll procrastinate about writing that final draft of the history as long as I can. I'm not ready for the journey to be over yet.