My 7 Deadly Genealogy Sins – An Admission

Daniel Hubbard wrote recently about Seven Deadly Genealogical Sins, and I am inspired to admit my own. I have long known that I suffer some emotions with respect to my genealogical research that aren’t so pretty. Here are my experiences of Daniel’s sins.

1. Lust – I lust after answers to my questions, to finding my mystery ancestors, or the information I just cannot locate (like my mother-in-law on the 1910 census, or satisfactory evidence that my great grandmother was either Elizabeth Earhart or Elizabeth Hockman, and that one of my great great grandmothers was Elizabeth Divers and not Elizabeth Stewart or Courts). The information I want most of all is about my ancestor, Edward Salt (or Salts).

2. Gluttony – I cannot get enough family information, especially the kind that helps me feel I actually know one of the ancestors, not just the facts about that person.

3. Avarice – I am greedy for more and more pictures (identified, please!), especially of ancestors I don’t have pictures of. I am also greedy for copies of old wills, land records, military records, vital records.

4. Envy – I am green with envy of any genealogist who can “leap the pond” and actually trace all their immigrant lines to whichever “old country”, and specific place therein, they came from. I have several brickwalls of this variety and they drive me crazy.

5. Sloth – Ok, I’m with Daniel on this one. I am not good about citing my sources (although I am trying to get better about it). I have a very bad habit of WILFing* around on the internet, collecting a record here, a tidbit of information there, another suggestion about a direction to go in another site; I save them all (bless CutePDF which lets me print almost anything – like a webpage – as a pdf file ) in a folder on my desktop labelled Research 2011 (this year anyway) and move on. It is truly amazing to me, even now – and I do know better – how much time I can lose in any 24-hour period just sitting in front of my computer and wandering around following first one thought and then another. If I would spend even a fraction of that time actually adding the information to my datebase and sourcing it, I would probably be much further along in my research than I am.

6. Pride – I am, I must admit it, very proud of my great great grandfather Minor for his service in the Civil War. Not that I think he out-ranked all of your Civil War ancestors, or was braver, or stronger, or anything like that. I am proud that he enlisted and then re-upped, staying for the course of the war and serving until it was over and the clean-up had started.

7. Wrath – Most people who know me would tell you that I don’t get angry very often, so this one is more difficult for me to see. I get irritated by fellow family researchers who don’t share information (especially reciprocally). I also get irritated by anyone who uses information without researching it for him/herself and especially anyone who uses someone else’s information without giving credit (you know, one example is the person who you send family information to, and the next thing you know it has turned up online Or the numerous family trees online with no sources.). Wrong information gets passed along like a virus this way. Having said this, I have probably been guilty of this misdoing myself, and I hereby apologize to the genealogy community I also apologize to any living family member whose information I might have passed along to another without thinking to protect it.

Now that I’ve started writing these sins down, I realize that several of them merge in me. I lust after and envy the things other people have, like pictures and letters and diaries. I can’t stop myself from collecting more and more of all these artifacts as well as information (seems like avarice and gluttony combined somehow). I hope I’m not the only family researcher who feels these things.

* WILF stands for What Was I Looking For, a term I first saw used by Susan Maushart in her book “The Winter of Our Disconnect” which is about disconnecting herself and 3 teenaged children from all their computerized gadgets at home including cellphones, for 6 months. It is very similar to my notion of FRADD – finding yourself wandering on the Internet from one place to another, following one idea and then another. I see I’m not the only one!

And a happy Fourth of July to all!

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