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28 February 2011

Genealogy Addiction

by CGS Vice President, Chris Pattillo

I think genealogy should come with a warning – Danger: May Be Addicting. I should know. I’ve been possessed ever since I took a month off last July to immerse myself in genealogical research. I’ve amassed volumes of new information, agreed to co-chair the RootsMagic Users Group, signed up for the ten week Intermediate Genealogy course with Marge Bell, paid the deposit for this year’s Salt Lake Research Tour and attended Shirley J. Riemer's German Genealogy workshop a couple weeks ago.

As the mound of new data has grown, I realized I need to get it all organized and ready to share with family members, but I pondered - at what point? The notion of stopping to write up what I’ve already found and needing to cut myself off from this feverish rush to discover more and more has been a bit unfathomable. I thought, “Well, something will tell me when the time comes to write it up.”

Then a few days ago a modest 4” x 5” card arrived in our mail with a simple message, “Save the Date! Dana and Mary will tie the knot June 18, 2011” and I knew this was it – a deadline. Counting on my fingers – February, March, April, May, June – that’s just four and a half months. When I published our family history in celebration of my oldest nephew’s marriage in 2001, I spent every weekend for six months to get the job done. That involved writing sixty-three biographies, scanning and composing over 100 black and white photos and writing captions. In the final days, before my flight to Australia for the wedding, I begged my partner and a friend to help with editing and rearranging several hundred commas – not my strong point.

Four and a half months would be tight and I wanted to learn a new program for the book production. Now mind you, I still work at a real full time job. In fact I own my own landscape architecture business and have partial responsibility for the livelihoods of three business partners and eight staff. But, at every opportunity, I am focused on research, writing, checking facts, selecting images and thinking about how to organize and present the new material I’ve found thanks to many at the California Genealogical Society. On weekdays, as soon as dinner is over, I’m on my laptop doing research or writing. During my lunch break at the office I edit what I found or wrote the night before. In essence, I am possessed. I talk about my latest finds with my staff – like the online Find A Grave website – oh, that’s cool. I found eight Stover and Drake family relatives, including one great obituary, in one evening all buried in the Carr and Drake’s Cliff cemeteries in Carter County, Tennessee, but my fascination is starting to make my staff a little nervous.

So, I needed to share this story because I knew you readers would be sympathetic – you’d understand, but really we should consider adding that warning label to the society's website. Genealogy – it’s great fun, but very addicting.

Chris reflected in a monument at the San Lorenzo Pioneer Cemetery
where her great-grandfather "James Pattello" is buried.

Copyright © 2011 by Kathryn M. Doyle, California Genealogical Society and Library.