Column: Dealing With Emotions Generated by Genealogy Research

Between today and Wednesday, my genealogy column, Roots to the Past, is available in the following Atlantic Canada newspapers:

Saturday: The Citizen (Amherst)

Saturday: Times & Transcript (Moncton)

Wednesday: The Lunenburg County Progress Bulletin (Lunenburg County)

Title: Dealing With Emotions Generated by Genealogy Research

Snippet: Last week, three people contacted me regarding my McDonald family tree. Reviewing the information before sharing it reminded me I must take time to better organise my files and to search again for pieces of missing information. New records are surfacing every day, and corrected mistakes in indexing reveals information otherwise hidden, so it pays to perform the same search a few times a year.

While searching for new material, I was reminded about my mixed feelings when encountering a vital or census record. You see, I’ve been told more than once I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This obsessive behaviour includes blowing on my hands, washing my hands more than the average person and organizing certain things in my life. I read a book on OCD and discovered there are many things I do for no reason that qualifies for this disorder.

A genealogist with OCD is someone who may keep all their files in strict order and becomes anxious when all the pieces of the puzzle are not found. Obsessing about missing information is only one distraction. The other is obsessing over which detail is correct. For example, if a birth date is found on a marriage record, a death record and three separate census records and is slightly different, it can lead to madness.

. . . To read more, pick up one of the above noted newspapers.

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2 thoughts on “Column: Dealing With Emotions Generated by Genealogy Research

  1. In fact, I have experienced this myself. Thanks for addressing a very real issue that can be worrying. I usually do the ‘research’ during the winter months, and this year…………for the first time that I recall, actually began living in that past. It’s good to be aware of it, talk about it, and manage it so that it won’t become a real problem.

    • Nancy, thank you for reading my column and for leaving a comment about it here. I don’t believe I have ever heard anyone discuss the emotions generated when researching a family tree besides the obvious: joy at finding the information and shock when something surprising is found (such as your family isn’t who you believed them to be). I find the more I research, the more involved I become in the lives of those long gone.

      Lately, my research has uncovered unbelievable circumstances that I could not find myself in. For example, a 22-year-old woman marrying a 90-year-old man, and having a few kids by him. I stopped and thought about what that would be like, and I think I would have run away instead of agreeing to the marriage.

      I’m not an emotional person, yet I still feel for the people who have come before me.

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