Monday, August 31, 2009

Picking at threads

1773 map of provincial South Carolina

One of the reasons for the lack of recent posts to this blog is that I have been out of town quite a bit for the past couple of weeks with trips to South Carolina and New Orleans. Throw in a family reunion this past weekend, and all of a sudden there is no time for posting to a family history blog. Traveling is time consuming, of course, but coming home with several pounds of photocopies and new books creates additional work of assimilating the new information into my database of ancestral families of both mine and my husband's. And, this results in less time for blogging.

I liken genealogical research to pulling at threads to unravel a patchwork quilt. It can be a tedious process, pulling one thread at a time. Sometimes pulling a thread will get you nowhere, but if you keep pulling long enough, the quilt will eventually (hopefully!) unravel. The trip to South Carolina was merely pulling at threads. Unfortunately, on the Robinson side nothing unraveled, and I'll just have to select another area of the quilt to pick at and maybe next time something will turn up for that family. On the other hand, enough threads were pulled for the Sloan and Clayton quilts to actually get somewhere, and I am in the process of pulling information together and analyzing it to get those families a couple of more generations back. That's a good feeling.

One of the things I've learned in genealogical research is that it is the layering of information collected over time, either by yourself or by competent fellow researchers, that provides the best results for compiling family histories. I owe a huge debt to family historians from generations back, and I know that I will never have all of the answers for the families that I research, yet there will be something of value that I can pass on to future historians. A small piece of information added as a layer today may yield significant answers years from now, and I've learned that sometimes what you don't find can be just as important as what you do find. Genealogists must be patient. A good historical and geographical perspective is also an absolute must if you want to discover all that you can about your particular ancestor. The recent trip to South Carolina certainly proved that for me.

Picking at threads is the fun part for me, but the real work - the grunt work, you might say - starts when you get home and have to put it all together.

No comments: