“You’ve motivated me to really get going on my family history research!” I’ve had the great fortune of hearing this several times over the last few months both from researchers and relatives.
Motivation is such an individual thing. My husband, Cas, has always said, ‘I just do it [whatever it is he’s talking about] because it needs to be done.’ For me it’s about what I get out of something that motivates me; while financial gain is good (it’s nice to eat occasionally), it’s how others respond to my help that pushes me to want to do more. I believe it’s important to be honest with yourself about what motivates you; when you know what it is, it’s so much easier to trigger it into action.
I also believe that as individual a thing as motivation is, the act of genealogical research is equally individual. Yes there are guidelines and suggestions for the most efficient ways to research. There are best practices to ensure that those who pursue it as a profession are acting in the best interest of their clients and these guidelines can be used by non-professionals who choose to use them. But it is still up to the individual to apply their own skills to the process of family history and genealogical research.
Last week I went to Cincinnati, Ohio on a research trip. I stayed with my 2nd cousin, Mary; the house she lives in was originally her mother’s and it was her mom who was one of my first family history connections (via letters!). I visited with my 3rd cousin Nancy to return the family documents I’d archived for her and which launched the bulk of the research on my Wersel and Wagner lines.
I visited with both of Mary’s brothers, Chuck and Bill. It was Bill’s wife Kim who reached out to me in 2011, which lead to their invitation to come and stay with them in Cincinnati so I could visit the place my maternal grandfather was born and do ‘a bit’ of hands on research including a trip to the famous Spring Grove Cemetery where at least 39 of our ancestors are buried.
Mary and I got to meet our 3rd cousin Carolyn who I started corresponding with via email back in the early 2000s; she shared with us an incredible group of photos mostly from about the 1870s to 1890s and was so excited to have the information from our line.
Several years ago I was only partly aware of the depth of my family’s roots in the State of Ohio; today I’ve uncovered a number of my lines who were in Ohio in the late 1700s with the rest coming shortly after in the early 1800s. I’ve found a fascinating new twist in a paternal line with possible Mennonite roots and am honing my research skills on a maternal line without vital documentation that requires more creative ways to compile evidence to prove they are mine.
My motivation? The interest my 2nd and 3rd cousins have in the genealogical work that I’m doing to compile our family history. The excitement they’ve shown each time I’ve uncovered something we didn’t know before, or that triggers a memory of something a relative said to them. I’m motivated to look at my own research with a more objective eye and not to let my emotional attachment to what I ‘know’ cloud out other possibilities.
And there’s this, which I would not have ever seen had I not opened my mind and my heart to where motivation can take you:
What's YOUR motivation?