Saturday, July 31, 2010

Don't Wait Until You're Eighty

Yep, it's been months since I've added an entry. No, I haven't been on a months-long European tour, or in a coma in the hospital, or on a voluntary sabbatical to a Caribbean island (yes, people take sabbaticals there, too). I have had my hands full working on my own genealogy research and raising four very busy children. My youngest is now a year old so I'm at least able to slow down and catch my breath occasionally.

These last few months have had me thinking about priorities when it comes to time and interests. There are only so many hours in a day and so many days in a year and so many opportunities in a lifetime. I often hear people my age say, "I think it's great you do genealogy, but I'm going to wait until I'm older." I understand the reasoning there. I really do. It's hard to squeeze anything else in a day when you have a family, job, household responsibilities, civic responsibilities, etc. As I work with distant relatives and others on genealogy, oftentimes, I am working with individuals who are retirement age. They now have the time and resources to spend doing their hobbies and interests. That does make sense to me. I get it.

But I always find the idea that genealogy is an "older" person's activity amusing because the thing I hear most often from those I work with on their family history is how they wish they had started it when they were younger. On more than one occasion, an older relative will say how great it is that I'm starting while I'm so young. (I guess early 30s is definitely still considered young among many of the genealogy crowd.)

Obviously, at this stage in my life, there are times when I can put more time and effort into my research and love for family history. There are other times (like the last few months) where it just has to be pushed out of the way temporarily for some other very important priorities (in my case, for some other very important little people).

However, too many who have never done genealogy mistakenly assume that they need several hours a week or even at a time in order to accomplish anything that would make it worth their time. And, thankfully, that is just not true. A couple of hours a month can yield some great results if you're willing to put in the effort.

Don't misunderstand me. You won't be sending out a published family history book for Christmas presents every year with just a 2 hour time investment each month. However, you can get a 5-generation pedigree chart filled in as far as you can, scan in a box of old photos, search for one sibling of your great-grandfather, call your great-aunt and get a few stories about your grandmother, or complete a few pages of your own personal history in that time each month.

There's also another advantage about starting while you are younger. Many of us in Gen X or Gen Y tend to be much more technologically savvy. And since genealogy is moving into the online realm faster than most of us can keep up, that can only be an advantage and make us more efficient in our research if we don't have the technology learning curve to work through. When I work with some of the teenagers in our church on their family history, I am amazed at how comfortable they are with the Internet and how fast they can find things they are looking for.

In sum, what I'm saying is I've heard from too many people that they regret not having done something when they were younger to start their genealogy. What works for me or someone else may not work for you. However, look at your priorities and see if there is anything you might be willing to give up. Could you watch one less television show a week? That would give you the 2-4 hours a month. How about combining errands into fewer outings? That might buy you enough time to spare a half-hour a week or so. And you'll be that much more ahead of the game when you do get to retirement age. You'll also have a little less regret about not getting to it sooner in your life.