It has been a long week; the semester at the college where I work is now in full swing. My favorites are the ones just out high school who have zero idea of what is going on around them or what they should do. I see many shades of myself at that age in them.
I just got back from a professional development event at The Center for Jewish History in the city. It was about how archivists and librarians can use modern research methods in their own scholarship and in the services they provide to others. One of my things for this academic year is to think holistically in all my endeavors. I want my volunteering with the Park Service to incorporate research into the book I am writing. Likewise, the geneaology will help me learn more about both digital storage and retrieval systems, along with what I have been learning abut my family history. I am thinking about joining a genealogy society to better learn the in-and-outs of the field. I know a reasonable amount about census and military records already, but I want to become more knowledgable about their provenance and the hows and whys of their usage over time. The online genealogy services are great. It is a wonderful time to be doing such research, and I have no desire to go back. Still, we lose a little something just looking at, say, an old birth certificate online, divorced from its context in a county courthouse where it sat for decades. The accessibility is a huge plus, but a little of the magic is gone on the computer screen.
Speaking of genealogy, I scored a major coup yesterday when an aunt mailed me a set of old family trees written out by her uncle decades ago. I spent a good part of last night comparing his and my work, and was glad to see that we matched almost exactly. Looking at the pencil marks he made all those years ago, I could not help but be impressed by his diligence. He managed to go back 4-5 generations in some cases. It was humbling to think of how he did it. We don’t give the people of the past as much credit as they deserve.