Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Treasure Hunting

“I am a Treasure Hunter.”  That was the thought in my mind, when I woke up one morning recently.  

And not necessarily just for the “bright and shiny” objects you might be thinking of.  I am quite happy with my little collection of broken buttons and buckles, and other, as yet unidentified, objects.  As they say, ‘one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.’  For me, it is both the anticipation of finding something, as well as the thrill of actually uncovering an item that was once part of a person’s life, which provides the enjoyment.

But the excitement of looking for "something" spills over into other hobbies – learning new skills, trying out new handicrafts - and sometimes (just sometimes ;-) ) it applies to my genealogy as well.  I start hunting in the hope of coming across “anything new”.  Perhaps it’s just in that idle moment when I think, “I wonder what will turn up if I do a Google search for [name of a relative]”.  Sometimes it starts from a clue - such as when I was transcribing the details from an ancestor’s marriage certificate and found the father’s occupation recorded as “artist in fireworks”.  I was intrigued, as I’d never seen that before, so off I went, looking for the family in the censuses, to see if those confirmed his trade.  That soon led to linked trees on Ancestry, with further discoveries about the family - a sad tale of a death due to a fire in the fireworks factory, followed by circus connections, German ancestry, a new relative…..

You get the picture?  Working quickly, I found a lot – but what did I then do about it all?

In his Genealogy Do-Over post at http://www.geneabloggers.com/genealogy-doover-slow-move-fast/ , Thomas MacEntee suggests we should “Pay no attention to that bright and shiny object”, as it side-tracks us and steals our research time.  And it is true – sometimes we set out towards a goal and then going off on that “treasure hunt” means we don’t achieve it.  Not only that, as every responsible detectorist knows – if you don’t fill in the holes, sooner or later they trip you (or someone else!) up.  And so it is with genealogy, if all we do is carry out the search, we end up leaving a lot of gaps that need to be filled.  As Thomas points out, “what good is working quickly if it gets you where you are right now: doing your research over for a second (or third, or fourth) time?”

I do think there is a time and place for everything – and sometimes working quickly is essential (guess who missed out on collecting those Irish BMD records for her One-Name Study precisely because she did not drop everything and go searching!)  So I am not going to ban myself totally from treasure hunting.  But I am going to make myself the first of my “Golden Rules” – a treasure hunt must have a basis in my goals, and I cannot go hunting again until the previous hunt is properly documented.

I am already finding that just being aware of that rule is helping to put the brakes on some of my sidetracking!

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