Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 20, 2012

Genealogy Overload

I finished my middle grade fantasy, and have begun sending it out to agents. While I’m waiting to hear back, I have several other projects to work on (as most authors do). However, I like to take a little time between writing projects to get a non-writing project finished, or at least well-started.

My current project is a Genealogy Database of all my scanned and filed documents. (Update: 1,234 files entered, 241 more to go from my side of the family.) But the genealogy information never stops coming!

I squeezed in two short vacations in the past few weeks. The first, with my husband, also involved visiting 3 cemeteries in Delaware to find my ancestors. The second, with my mother and daughter, also involved 3 cemeteries—this time in New York. So now I have photos and cemetery records to add to my database.

I got a huge surprise in the mail, too. The day after I got home I received a package from my aunt. It contained a scrapbook of my ancestor Capt. William M. Wooldridge, who died in 1863 from a disease contracted while fighting in the Civil War. There are at least half-a-dozen contemporary newspaper articles outlining his artwork, architecture, and inventions. It also had articles about his marriage and some of his Civil War action.

I have found that this is how genealogy goes—droughts and floods. For long periods, every attempt to research will meet with a brick wall. Then suddenly evidence and data will fall into your lap. Sometimes it’s a response to a forum post I put up years ago. Sometimes it’s the opportunity to visit cemeteries or other historic places. Sometimes it’s an unexpected package from a relative. Then one clue leads to another and sometimes an entire wall falls.

I haven’t reached a breakthrough with all this new data, but I have tied up some loose ends and rounded out my data for several generations.

Genealogy is much like writing. You know that feeling when the words are coming so fast you can’t keep up? When the story is rolling and you are high on the exhilaration? When new data come in for my genealogy, I get the same excited rush. And when it leads to a breakthrough, I actually get giddy.

Maybe that’s why I love both writing and genealogy—the unexpected highs more than make up for the long stretches of routine, nitty-gritty hard work.

Do your hobbies complement your writing? Or are they polar opposites?

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