It’s difficult to think about the seasons of genealogical research without considering the sober image of the seasons of life – birth of spring, flowering summer, harvest in autumn, and then the long “little death” of winter.
I remember the first thrill that piqued my interest in family stories – and the “aha” moment when I discovered that history was much more interesting when it included my own blood relations. My grandmother’s moldering trunk filled with letters, papers, and photos was a Nancy Drew mystery come to life. That was many years ago, when I was a high school and college student. The fact that I wanted to research my grandmother for School legitimized my curiosity and opened doors to memories that might not have been recalled otherwise. I am grateful now to have that thesis, complete with non-exhaustive search, and those cassette taped interviews with family who have since died.
But it seems the season never ended. Instead, it’s become a long, slow Spring often teasing with the promise of full-blown answers, flowering hypothesis, and rampant vines leading to new branches of research to explore. Each time it seemed to be time to move forward, more weeds sprout, more maintenance is required. I think I am stuck in the genealogical version of the movie Groundhog Day, set in spring instead of winter.
Within this long season of Eternal Spring, little cycles through the seasons occur – with small rewards of watching information grow, harvesting results, and turning what I’ve learned into bedtime stories to share with others. Wonder, surprise, and serendipity are the watchwords of Spring, and my research continues to pose more questions than answers. I have yet to explore the history of my paternal ancestors, yet to document my husband’s family, yet to pull together the stories in a way that holds the interest of other family members.
One day, the summer solstice of my research may arrive, but for now I am quite content to hunt for wild strawberries in the tangle.