Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Falling Off the [Genealogy] Wagon, Climbing Back On

Every few years I seem to fall of the genealogy wagon, fall away from my ancestors, away from searching for them and researching their lives.  Am I the only one with this problem?  When this happens I'm usually disappointed with myself, then discouraged that I didn't prevent it, and feel worse that I don't get back on the wagon sooner.

Why We May Fall Off the Wagon
  • Illness.   Family history research requires a good amount of mental energy and the ability to focus.  When we feel miserable it's hard to think about much other than ourselves or our pain.  A major illness or surgery can require rest or sleep, and pain medication can keep us out of the loop mentally for a week or two.  Keeping up with our own essential needs may be all we can handle.  Ancestors?  Heck, I can hardly stay awake, let alone think beyond the next few hours!  When we're caring for someone else who is ill it may be even more taxing on our energy, both mental and physical.  Family history can wait a bit -- and then a little longer, until a year goes by....
  • Time Limitations.  There are seasons in our lives when there really may not be time to do research.  Temporary responsibilities may require our attention and time; employment may make demands on our time; or living family members may need our time and attention.  We may have the mental energy to think about our ancestors while driving from one place to the other but may truly not have time to sit and research.  When that happens too long, we can forget to think about ancestors.
  • Loss of Interest.  Perhaps you have another hobby that captures your attention and takes you away from family history for a while.  
  • Mired in a Family History Mess.  Maybe you've done lots of research but you haven't sorted and organized the research or added the information to your genealogy program.  You have all these papers, all these digital images, all these leads for where to search next, you have a mess!  You think, I'll take a break for a week or two, give myself some breathing room.  And a week turns into a year.
  • A Brick Wall.  You were going along great, finding one ancestor, then the spouse, then the children, back each previous generation.  Suddenly you can't find another piece of information for that ancestor.  You were so focused on him or her that you don't want to switch to another family line.  You say to yourself, I'm done for now.  
  • Not Knowing the Next Steps.  We learn how to research for our ancestors as we go along but sometimes we reach the point where we don't know what the next step should be.  That, especially in combination with any of the above challenges, may cause us to quit working on family history.

How to Climb Back on the Wagon
  • Remember your ancestors, or even just one ancestor -- a birthday, an anniversary, a death date, or the anniversary of a major event.  You could keep a calendar of birthdays and anniversaries. 
  • If you read blogs, continue to read, even if you aren't researching.  At least family history will be somewhere in your consciousness.
  • Keep up with, or at least occasionally view, blogs such as Randy Seaver's Genea-Musings, Linda's Empty Branches on the Family Tree, or John Michael Neill's Genealogy Search Tip of the Day.  One of their favorites of the week lists, or a list of new online databases, or a search tip may be just the spark you need to help toward the genealogy wagon.
  • Occasionally look through your previous research results or blog posts (if you blog).  Stay familiar with the work you've already done.
  • Consider taking a free, online genealogy course.  I've heard good recommendations for  "Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree" at FutureLearn.   BYU also offers a few free online genealogy courses. 
  • A webinar requires less time than a course.  Legacy Family Tree Webinars are free during the first week after they're recorded.  Maybe one of them will pique your interest. 
  • If you can find a few minutes a day, the suggestions at 20 Ways to Do Family History in 5 Minutes a Day offers some suggestions.
  • If nothing else, use photos of ancestors as the background on your computer monitor or hang a few photos of ancestors on a wall in your home or office where you see them every day and wave as your walk past. 

I firmly believe that our ancestors want to be found, want us to remember them and their names, and tell their stories when we find them.  And if we don't remember them and tell their stories and history, who will?  Which means I need to climb back on the genealogy wagon myself!

Please share your suggestions and experiences if you've fallen off the genealogy wagon and climbed back on.


Copyright ©2019, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 



  1. Boy oh boy, are you speaking to me today! I love this analysis and suggestions for how to stick with it.

    1. LOL. Thanks, Wendy. I was trying to give myself a pep talk, too. So far it hasn't had much effect, but I'm working on it.

  2. Even though my focus has been on quilting, I've been staying in touch with genealogy this summer, mostly through the memorials I have on Findagrave. Someone will send a suggestion and I will spend some time doing some research. The memorials are usually of headstones I photographed when visiting a cemetery, but once I verify their facts, I do some of my own research. So my family tree is coming along slowly, but surely.

    1. That's a great way to keep up with genealogy/family history, Shasta. If only I had family who lived locally....


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