Twenty-one years ago I pulled a book from a shelf in the historical reference section of my local library, titled Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives, published by the National Archives Trust Fund Board. From an early age I was gifted with an affinity for history, and an interest in puzzles of all sorts; but little did I realize that un-shelving that book un-knowingly marked the beginning of what I learned genealogists endearingly call the “Obsession.”
Over the years since that day in July 1990, my husband has half jokingly referred to me as the “Keeper of the Truths.” This term seems to apply in any family where you find a genealogist, and if you’re chuckling to yourself, then YOU are likely your family’s Truth Keeper.
Being the “Keeper of the Truths” involves a good deal of responsibility; you do not want to pass along incorrect information to any family member, so you persevere to validate what you collect. And while 95 percent of the time family members’ eyes glaze over with bored disinterest as you describe your latest revelation, discovered in a death certificate or some other obscure document, it is that last 5 percent that keeps us Keepers on our toes.
Sooner or later, somebody in the family wants or needs to know what you know; what you have worked so doggedly to uncover.
For me this interest has come in the form of requests for information from nieces and nephews. I am the oldest of seven children, and as my sibling’s children have progressed through the milestones of elementary, middle and high school, inevitably one of their teachers gives them an assignment involving their family history. Then I get a phone call.
I love it. I revel in it. I am delighted! But we need to be careful not to overwhelm; my husband wisely tells me, “When someone asks you for the time, you don’t tell them how to build a watch.”
Of the several who have called over the years seeking family information, I’ve been able to identify one of my nieces as the next generation “Keeper,” and this calms me because the thought of what will happen to all my “stuff,” all my years of research, when I’m gone has been a concern in recent years as I am, well, getting older. But she is sincerely INTERESTED!
I promise Brittany; I will do my best to get all this stuff more organized before it lands in your lap.
But organizing our genealogy "stuff" is another kettle of fish altogether, and we'll save that for another time…