Reflecting On History's Links

Salon.com
NOVEMBER 1, 2011 11:56AM

My career of a lifetime

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As a forty-something wife and mother, I have tried many careers over the years searching for that perfect job that would work well with my family. I was on an endless hunt for something that would allow me to have a good balance in my life and make me happy. During that time, I always had an intriguing hobby that had begun in childhood. No matter what job I had, I always couldn't wait to get back to my favorite pastime. Then, when I wrote a few articles about my hobby people began contacting me for help.

I am now a professional genealogist and while many people yawn, become glassy-eyed or flat-out say, "What's THAT?" I have always loved the thrill of the hunt for dead people. As a child, I spent many summers with my grandmother and her sister strolling through cemeteries. I'd read the grave markers and wonder what each person was like, who they were, and how they had lived. As I got older, the people buried there weren't just an epitaph, they were someone's mom or dad, aunt or uncle or sometimes even someone's pet.

I would listen to my great-aunt, the family historian, as she relayed information to my grandmother. I would ponder over the things she said and ask questions later. I was like Nancy Drew except I wasn't quite as smart as Nancy. I'd ask my aging grandmother, "Who were the twins, the Cherokee grandmother and the eunuch? And, by the way, what IS a eunuch?" I was promptly told that a eunuch was a castrated man who was NOT a member of our family. My grandmother and her sister always piqued my interest not knowing I was hanging on their every word. Little did they know they would help shape my career thirty years later.

Today, I spend my days searching for clues which lead me to another branch of a client's family tree, but that's only a small piece of the puzzle. In the beginning, the information I produced came out as cold, hard facts which most people liked but something was missing.

It's when I went back to my own roots, my days as child listening to family stories, that my career took a turn for the better. I merged my formal instruction, love of history and passion for writing into interesting tales. I inserted the facts with the time period; the when, where and how and my clients' ancestors came to life. The people many consider long gone and buried always end up with plenty to say.   

My career is not for everyone. I wouldn't recommend it to someone who wants to be rich. Those are the people I work for. However, genealogy is my calling. It's not just a job or career, it's a part of me and ironically, all the years I was searching for that perfect job, it was there all along just waiting to be discovered.

        

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Today is National Job Day! Good luck to all of you who are searching!
I envy your work in a field that you love. I can imagine genealogy can uncover some fascinating history. My family's attempts to trace its roots have been hampered by a courthouse fire that destroyed a lot of birth and marriage records in the late 1800's. Really sad. Still, we have been able to track down a couple of branches, uncovering a connection to two presidents, and going all the way back to 14th century England. Neat stuff.

Of course, I suspect, despite the connection to a few n0teworthy ancestors, we're related to a lot more pirates and reprobates!
Procopius, I really enjoy it although just like with any freelance work, it has its ups and downs. One area that may help with your family is searching old newspapers. They are considered a secondary source, but they may lead you to some clues in putting your tree together. Use the last name only and don't limit the search to a certain time period. And, yes, the good and the bad come to light with each family I research. Some people are okay with that and others take offense, so it's a little challenging when making the presentation sometimes. Thank you for commenting!
You have the most interesting vocation I have heard of. And the best thing is your love of what you do. I can imagine your satisfaction, after working like a sleuth, coming up with the information your clients have been awaiting to connect to their ancestors. Thank you for sharing this.
♥R
Thank you. I found your story very inspirational as I continue to develop my writing in my job. I enjoy reading historical fiction and hope to put something of my own together soon.
"I have always loved the thrill of the hunt for dead people."
That made me smile, for some reason...
Glad to read you have found your calling.
That is huge in Life, isn't it?
Just Thinking, it was meant to make you smile, so I'm glad you did! Yes, it is huge. I absolutely love it and I hope it lasts for a very long time. Thanks for commenting. : )