Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Sweet Hypnosis of Genealogy

First thing's first - big shout out to the Genealogy Blog for giving a big shout out to us.

Getting ready for this trip I've gotten involved in genealogical research for the first time. That's not a very market-friendly term - "genealogy" reeks of old people and disease, while "research" has its own set of labor-intensive, dusty-library connotations that'll scare off the younguns. Who married who when, who died in what town, how many kids, who cares? That was how I felt until a couple of years back.

A couple of things changed. One - I got a huge data dump and went over it thoroughly. It's fascinating to see all the parts that come together to make you, all the variables involved, and if just one thing had been different you never would've been born. Second, growing the family tree is addictive. It's problem-solving. It's filling in holes and finding explanations. It's the thrill of linking your family to one of the most important military actions in American history or Napoleon's nemesis. And all of it related to everyone's favorite subject - themselves.

If you're thinking about taking the plunge into this mesmerizing world, here's a tip*: get yourself some software. Last year a guy in my office brought in a scroll of paper he was using for his family tree, which struck me as quaint and nice but hugely inefficient, something the Medicis would do to figure out who gets the inheritance rather than an intelligent way to organize invaluable family information.

*Will try to keep unsolicited advice to a minimum
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