Saturday, April 2, 2011
Open Discussion Weekend: Does Family History Research Make You Sad?
As genealogists, we spend the majority of our time researching the lives of people who have long since passed. Whenever I add a new branch to the family tree, I get a sudden rush as I discover the new names, the spouses, their children, their children's spouses, their grandchildren and so on.
During my initial online research on these new branches, I am jumping between resources on Ancestry, FamilySearch, NewspaperArchive, GenealogyBank, Google News Archive - putting together a basic picture of their lives. And quite often, within a few minutes to an hour, I have discovered this new family, lived through their marriage, their children and grandchildren and then I discover an obituary or death record. Of course, I knew that information would be waiting there, but I always feel a little sad when I find it.
With my direct line ancestors, I usually try to construct a more in-depth timeline of the events of their lives. As with Gwyneth's discovery, I also found a rather sad chain of events. In the timeline of my grandmother, Sina Bellinger Kelly, I learn that she was pregnant with her second child when her first child died. Three months after the loss of her first baby, her mother died. A month after her mother died, her next child was born. The suicide of her brother and the death of her father were just four months apart.
These discoveries often take me from the euphoria of discovering a new family line to tremendous empathy and sadness once I see the timeline of events in their lives.
My question for this week's Open Discussion Weekend: do you ever find yourself getting sad or depressed as you discover information about the families and ancestors you research? Do you take this all in stride and accept death as a natural progression of the life cycle? Do you ever find the empathy for people overwhelming? If so, how do you deal with the feelings? Please share your experiences and comment below.