Category Archives: Zinsk

Research, repositories and relaxation

Letter R: Eighteenth of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!

Research, repositories and relaxation are three words I often think of in combination, because just the idea of going to a repository to do some leisurely family history research brings on a deep sense of relaxation — like a form of meditation for the family historian.

By: mrgarethm
National Archives and Records Administration Building, Washington, D.C. Research, repositories and relaxation are three words I often think of in combination, because just the idea of going to a repository to do some leisurely family history research induces a deep sense of relaxation — sort of like meditation for the family historian By: mrgarethm

I began doing genealogy research in earnest when I was living in Washington, D.C., in the early 1990s.

Back then, the National Archives building on Pennsylvania Ave. was open most nights until 9:00 pm — so if I was having a hectic week and needed to unwind, I would head over there for a couple of hours.

Microfilm meditation

In those microfilm days, there would be researchers at readers all over the room meditatively scrolling along looking for ancestors — and once in a while, you would hear someone exclaim happily when they found a record they needed.

Sitting in that huge space, I found my maternal immigrant ancestors, who lived and worked in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y., in census after census —  because once they settled there, they put down roots.

My paternal ancestors, who had been in the U.S. much longer, offered many more relaxing hours of research because they moved around quite a bit.

After a night at the archives, I sometimes called my dad for tips on where to look next — and one night surprised him with the news that we had Swiss ancestors.

“You know, I seem to remember hearing something about that,” he said thoughtfully after I read him the census entry from Forestport, Oneida County, N.Y.

“Really?” I asked. “Why didn’t you say something?” But in retrospect, I’m glad he didn’t — because it might have spoiled the relaxing evening I spent unearthing that discovery, which I will write about for Letter Z.

Brain-healthy browsing

Although many records are now digitized, with more coming online each day, most materials still exist in non-digital form at government offices, libraries, archives and other repositories.

It’s easy to bemoan this reality and feel frustrated that the ancestral records we want are not instantly available, or just an Internet search away.

But once you realize that research and repositories lead to relaxation, you can tap into the brain-healthy meditative state that accompanies your heritage search — and that can be a good thing!

Up next: Susquehanna River reflections. Please stop back.

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