I joined my local historical society today! I’m very excited about the chance to learn more about my town’s local history, even if none of my family is from here, genealogically speaking, and I also decided to volunteer, so I can get more involved. I’ve got a varied skill-set, so they’re going to try me out in a couple of areas to see where I fit best, but it sounds like they can really use my help as a docent or presenter for tour groups, possibly updating their website, and getting involved with some of the writing and/or copyediting for their journal. They also extended an invitation to browse their archives, which thrills me to my very pinkiest pinky toe. I am just a sucker for old documents, manuscripts, resources and archives (along with probably every other genealogist, you’re thinking…), and I probably should’ve gone into Library Science to become an archivist. Being invited to look into their archives on our very first meeting was a wonderful honor, and I’m very excited. I still harbor a tiny spark of a dream that I might one day find that original source that leads to my own investigation into a wild and varied life story, as Mary Penner described in a riveting seminar she gave on reconstructing the life of Henry O’Neil, a bachelor merchant with a very colorful life in Santa Fe a century ago (originally filmed at the APG Professional Management Conference in 2009, available from familysearch.org’s online research classes here).
In addition to joining the Historical Society for my county, I took on my first genealogical client, so to speak! I’ve done some work on occasion for friends to help them out, but I’ve yet to begin doing any research for a complete stranger. One of the lovely ladies I met at the historical society today mentioned being interested in learning more about her father’s family. I offered to rummage around a bit for free, since the challenge of looking into a completely unknown family is good for me. It really makes me nail down evidence and cite all my sources, which I occasionally skimp on when I’m doing my own family. I shouldn’t, but I sometimes do! And by doing someone else’s family, it gives me the chance to start out right from the beginning, as well as demanding I have solid proof, since I can’t rely on hunches or family stories I vaguely remember. I am a blank slate with nothing but the sticky my client gave me, so I need to look extra hard to make the connections. That’s good for me, and also will help me in figuring out which region I mean to specialize in when I go for my credentials. I was thinking the south or midwest, as it’s where I mainly research, but if I have to get on a plane every time a client hires me? Yeah, maybe not. So I’m considering the Northwest as my region – handy, since my client’s family research is starting out there.
I’m excited to see what I find for her, and also excited to connect with more people and resources through the historical society. They also gave me the contact for the local genealogical society, so that will be my next contact to make!
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