How Being a New Parent Can Change One’s Genealogy Habits

A few days after his birth, I wrote a new blog post about my son Brendan and shared a few photos of the little guy. It was exciting to be able to add a new twig to the family tree, quite literally. I was almost giddy adding Brendan to my Ancestry.com online tree. What I didn’t expect were the very significant changes to my genealogy habits that would result from this little bundle of joy.

Genealogy is a hobby that I have poured hours upon days into over the last several years. I have attempted to be as professional as an amateur genealogist can and that takes time. Before Brendan was born that may have meant hours working in front of the computer. It was not unusual for me to get home from work at 6:30 p.m., have dinner and then spend the next two or three hours searching for documents, following leads, and working my way down genealogical rabbit holes. I would easily lose myself in Ancestry.com or Familysearch.org and before long, it’s 11:30 p.m. and I’ve guaranteed myself only four or five hours of sleep.

As anyone with a toddler knows time is not something I have in abundance anymore. Brendan’s presence has forced a shift in my genealogy habits. Parenting requires that my genealogy involve more fits and starts. I’ve had to become an expert at “5-minute genealogy.” Thanks to the Ancestry.com app, maybe I conduct a quick search for a record on my iPad or clean up my family tree on my iPhone. It’s not unusual for me to conduct a records search, walk away from the computer and come back an hour later not remembering what I had already looked at. Instead of trying to figure it out, I tend to open a new browser tab and start a new search. Pretty soon I have 15 tabs open in Google Chrome, all with search results or record displays and not much to answer for it.

Besides cleaning the house, doing laundry and maybe (just maybe) watching TV, I can usually work on my genealogy for an hour or so after Brendan goes to bed. I tend to rotate between conducting research and new blog posts. Because a blog post of any substance can take at least an hour to write and source, they are often now done haltingly. (I started writing this one over two months ago.) Hence, you will see a lot of “(Not So) Wordless Wednesday” posts, with just a photo and a caption and a lot fewer detailed articles.

While cranking out the work may be harder, I do have a new emotional driver for my work. Brendan is obviously a descendant to whom I can pass my work. I have no idea if he will ever appreciate genealogy, but there are family stories and photos that I want him to hear and see. As we all know, it’s important to pass down the stories of the ancestors he didn’t know as I did, like my grandfather Chuck Lowry or great grandfather Francis Witt. Genealogy has become more meaningful as I write down my family history for him.

Having Brendan in my life is a blessing. With the exception of wanting an hour or two of additional sleep each night, I wouldn’t change a thing. This includes cutting back on the genealogy. Instead of 20 hours a week spent with dead relatives, I gladly spend more time with the living. And those are the real memories I want to remember.

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