Sunday, March 12, 2017

Go deep or go long?

I have been away for a couple of weeks while one of my daughters gave birth to a new granddaughter, another leaf on my family tree! There were some issues, though not medical, really. This was not her first child and normally, the 'due date' is fairly accurate, usually within a day or two or three. Obstetrical science has progressed, the technology is marvelous, and the science behind it amazing. Yet it remains a huge unknown; Mother Nature and a woman's body are the final determinants as to when birth will occur, not medical know-how.

In my daughter's case, that meant my leaving her house after a 10-day stay without having had the opportunity to hold my new granddaughter after birth.

It also meant I missed the birth by 24 hours! Twenty. Four. Hours.

Ah, if only...

But 'if only' does not count, so now I am back home and at this family search business, which I have worked on for a couple of years.

I have enjoyed my activities immensely. I have learned many things about my ancestors going back several generations. I have learned things about my immediate grandparents that completely shocked me and changed the preconceived memories I have always had about their pasts. I have learned things about where they came from in England - eventually, I hope to get to Ireland, too, but that will have to wait because validated facts about my Irish ancestry are in very short supply.

In short, I have learned some of the Who, Where, When about some of the people in my past I either did not know well (because I was brought up a Third Culture Kid overseas, the son of a US diplomat) or did not know at all (because of their deaths.) I have been contacted by and am in touch with the only cousin I know about, a second cousin who remembers me and my family from my childhood. I still can barely explain the excitement I feel just knowing her, even though I have no memory of us ever meeting.

Those factors, combined with my insatiable curiosity and drive to fill in the blanks - chasms, really -  in my past, have led me to wonder more about the What and Why parts of my ancestors' pasts. What made my ancestors do what they did? Why did they do what they did (beyond the 'improve life for us' immigration issue.) What did they do when they were there, wherever that was? What was going on in their neighborhood, town, state, country, at the time? What did they have to do with the adults of some children whose names I recall from my pre-Middle East life?

The pressing question now is:

Should I continue "going long," meaning going farther and farther back into my past? I will fill out my family tree with names, dates, and places. But that is pretty much all I will be doing...filling in those chasms. I would not know much about the individuals belonging to those names.

Or do I change tack slightly and start "going deep," meaning do I spend more time, energy, and probably money going deeper into the individuals that I already know?

To me, that is akin to putting more leaves on my family tree - as my daughter has just done with the birth of my granddaughter, Charlotte - instead of focusing on adding branches in faraway places like Ireland.

I need your help, dear readers, of all kinds. I do not want to become a semi-professional genealogist; I am still doing this for me, but I am also aware enough of my own personality to know that I will never be able to stop; I never have enough information.

I would like the input of friends, family, the genealogists, professional or not, who have been doing this much longer than me and really anyone reading who might have greater insight into the Who, What, Where, When, and Why, factors involved in climbing up ones family tree.

So let me know. Write a comment. Send me an email. Find a carrier pigeon. Use a smoke signal or semaphore, though, honestly, they probably will not work very well.

Let me hear from you!