Genealogy You Can Touch

Over at Mnemosyne’s Magic Mirror, Mel has been posting some very thought-provoking articles on genealogy conferences. His latest article compares genealogy conferences with other popular hobbies and finds ours comes up lacking in attendance. His comparison to quilting shows got me thinking about the product of our labors. What tangible thing do you have to show for your research efforts?

I’ve often felt a bit guilty that I wasn’t as focused on the research effort as most of my genealogy friends. Yes, I do love the hunt for clues and the joy of solving a part of the puzzle, but I must admit that I would much rather create a regatta video, a photo documentary or a family cookbook. And, these products generate a lot more interest from family members than the few academic family histories written about our clan.

Quilting groups, art associations and other hobbyists spend time and money to learn techniques but all have the goal of displaying and even selling a completed project. The artists in my family travel to workshops and seminars to learn from experts. Some are large affairs in distant locations, but just as often they are small classes closer to home. All are much more relaxed than any conference with plenty of time to enjoy the location and company. Perhaps there are some lessons to be learned here.

The genealogy community focuses on the research effort – as it should – but seldom discusses the finished product. Yes, until recently, the finished product was a very time-consuming and expensive project. Today’s technology is changing all of that and it is time we spend a bit more time learning about the things we can create and how to do it. Digitizing photos and documents to safeguard those precious treasures is one thing, but using those images to build a photo documentary or family storybook may well capture the interest of even the most unreachable family member.

It’s time to consider creating some genealogy you can touch.

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5 comments for “Genealogy You Can Touch

  1. May 16, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Excellent thoughts. I have been mulling these over in my mind how to do it for my family. Thanks for sharing your thoughts it helps.

  2. May 16, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Yes and yes and yes! You’ve put words to vague thoughts knocking about in the back of my mind. That’s why many, many of us blog, post the pictures and seek accessible ways to share with our families.

  3. May 16, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    Thanks for stopping by “MMM”! And yes, the idea that genealogy needs to be more tangible is a great one. Even those “I’m not the least bit interested” relatives can be stopped dead in their tracks by historic images, family heirlooms like quilts, and so on.

    Our real job – as genealogists – is to bring the people we research alive again. An ancestor on paper is just a name and a date; an ancestor you can touch – through objects, or even metaphorically – is part of the family!

    • Denise Barrett Olson
      May 16, 2011 at 7:48 pm

      My family loves the cookbooks and movies, but I also like having a tangible accomplishment to show for my effort. No matter how many brick walls I knock down, it’s still nice to have something I can put my hands on now and again.

  4. May 19, 2011 at 8:47 am

    Agree! I love creating heritage objects to share with my family. As a scrapbooker, I love occasional weekends away devoted to nothing else but paper love. My sister is always creating beautiful mugs and canvases, too. Everyone always appreciates what they can see and touch. Thanks for a great article.

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