But when theres nothing on the microfilm and my online searches come up empty, I keep quiet. I fade into a kind of genealogical malaise.
My dog enjoys shredding paper. (Once I caught her slinking away from my purse with a $10 bill in her teeth.) Soon after my ancestors failed to appear in city directory microfilm, Janie got hold of a research request sitting on the bookshelf waiting to be mailed to the Louisiana state archives. I found it in two pieces on the living room floor.
I still havent done anything about those two pieces. Malaise.
They say that when youre trying to get into shape, the best motivation is seeing the dieting and exercise pay off. That principle applies to genealogy: The best inspiration to do more research is getting results.
So when you keep not finding new information despite your best efforts, youre in danger of embarking on a downward spirallack of motivation to look for records followed by (wonder of wonders) not finding your ancestors.
Thats when you need outside motivation. Ill throw out a few suggestions, and I hope youll click Comments to add your own:
- Take a genealogy class, attend an event, go to a society meeting or read a magazine (hey! I know one you might like!). Let others help you see the possibilities. Plus, itll be inspiring to talk to people who are in a more excited state of doing genealogy than you’re stuck in.
- Help a genealogy newbie. You could go with a friend to a Family History Center, be a library volunteer or answer questions online in forums such as ours. Youll gain confidence in your research skills and be inspired by your helpees successesa little like watching a wide-eyed toddler discover the world.
- Bask in the glow of past bingo! moments. Go through your research and remember the time you finally discovered Great-grandpa, his last name mangled, in the 1900 census. That feeling of triumph will be yours again.
- Power through. Our sister publication Writers Digest says the best way to get over writers block is to make yourself sit down and write. Its like that. Force yourself to do some research (try moving to an environment, such as the library, where you wont be tempted to clean the kitchen or turn on the TV).
- Accept the lows with the highs. You cant be on all time, and neither can your family tree. Instead of feeling guilty, let yourself enjoy a short research vacation. Then jump back in refreshed.