Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Office Excavation

After my shift yesterday I decided to head into the office and attempt to do some cleaning. As you may remember, we did a significant reorganization and a little bit of cleaning about a month ago but there were some things that we have kept putting off. As much as I hate doing it, it was time to get things cleaned off my desk and organized.

Much of the cleaning and organizing had to do with all the papers and files that have been slowly accumulating over the past several months. I must have had an entire tree blanketing all the surfaces in the small room. In my opinion, is the worst kind of cleaning because you have to go through every document, sort them, and shred anything with sensitive information on it.

The truly astounding part of this endeavor is just how much stuff there is strewn about. For me, paper seems to epitomize the 10 in 5 mystery in that you wonder how ten pounds of crap can fit into a space that should only be able to hold five. It was a seemingly never ending task that had me, time and again, asking why I had kept all this stuff.

At the same time, I did come across a lot of things that I had long since forgotten about. Acceptance letters, testing scores, old flyers from readings, photographs I had taken, and endorsements. However, what were of greatest value to me were the papers that I had misplaced before I could add them to my genealogy binders. Namely copies of a few obituaries, a couple of family photos, and my conversion documents.

My conversion file in particular reminded me of an important part and commonly overlooked aspect of family tree building. All too often, amateur genealogists such as myself get tunnel vision and focus solely on the past. One of the worst things we can do is fail to color the leaf which we occupy on the tree. We have to remember that we are both story tellers and part of the story.

This omission is bad enough but what is infinitely worse is the failure to simply look around. Talk to the family that you have not just for what they can provide with regard to previous generations but for their stories as well. The work that you are doing now is great for the present but infinitely more important for the future generations of the family.

Lastly, the overarching reminder that yesterday provided me with was that whether you are researching your family or some other topic be organized. You are always going to be collecting more documents, more photographs, more books, and more stories and you need to have a place to put them where they can be retrieved easily. It was hard enough to find it once, don’t make yourself have to find it again.