Genealogical job hazards
I have a problem with being sidetracked. There…I admit it! Not distracted mind you. No…definitely not distracted as some perfectly mean individuals would have it, but sidetracked. I make a definite distinction between the two because in my case being sidetracked often leads to amazing discoveries albeit not the ones you were meant to be making. Being distracted on the other hand usually leads to a game of computer Sudoku – great fun but not very constructive.
I have started a whole project based on things I have discovered whilst being sidetracked. I have tentatively called it “Past Lives” and it is a collection of stories about ordinary people who lived at the Cape in the 19th Century. Each chapter deals with a different person as I have pursued them across worn and yellowed archival pages. Some of them I have got to know very well indeed. Others elude satisfactory explanation but all, I hope, will live again in some way through these stories.
This whole sidetracking phenomenon must have something to do with a primordial part of the brain that likes a good chase. You latch onto something which gets you thinking: Why did this happen, who was this person, what was the outcome? And you’re off chasing their spoor through dusty volumes, in and out of archive repositories, dodging red herrings and trying your best to resist other interesting spoor along the way.
I suppose we ancestral sleuths have much in common with forensic detectives like those in CSI. We too are often presented with very little in the way of solid information and we have to investigate every possible lead in order to trace our ancestors and so link them to their forefathers or descendants. Accessing original written sources is the most important part of this process but aren’t we lucky that we also have modern technology at our fingertips in the form of the internet, online databases, access to photographs, documents and e-books to help us along the way. Alas, this is exactly where most of the sidetracking comes in. It is fairly easy to search for things in this manner and well…one thing leads to another…
At least something concrete is emerging from my propensity for being sidetracked. I can only say that it is a great adventure and one’s general knowledge improves by leaps and bounds. It is definitely a job hazard with benefits.