My last post started me thinking. To increase my awareness of the topic, I am also reading a very interesting book about the history of genealogy, as such, that reinforces my thoughts. (See Weil, François. Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America. 2013). It is certainly true that genealogy and genealogist come from a highly checkered past. So why would anyone want to be associated with genealogy? I am not sure if that is a rhetorical question or not.
I fully realize after more than thirty years of doing genealogical research, that I am not going to become popular or even mildly tolerated by most people because of my genealogical interests. In fact, I have frequently been the target of outright hostility. But I don't really care about that aspect of the work. I am proud to be a genealogist for deeper reasons that popularity and social acceptance.
Take this blog for an example. There are thousands of topics I could have written about that would have been more popular. If I was seeking a large audience and popularity, I certainly choose the wrong subject matter. But the rewards are more than popularity, they go far deeper than making money or becoming well known. None of those categories fit at all well into the genealogical mold.
So what is the motivation and why would I continue to plod along, day after day, persistently adding to the pile of my family's history? I think the answer to that question is not simple. My personal motivations for doing genealogy, teaching genealogy and writing about it, day after day, can hardly be either easily or briefly explained. The easiest explanation for my passion for genealogy, would be to attribute it to some of my basic religious beliefs. But I share those religious beliefs with lots of other people and very, very few of those people have even a passing interest in genealogy. In fact, some of them are the most hostile. So, although there may be religious component, it is not a satisfying answer to the basic question.
Basically, I started and I would like to see the job through to the end. In my heart, I know this is not possible, but until the last name on the most remote family is accounted for, I will keep working.
In my case, genealogy is more of a compulsion, rather than an interest. It is due more to need and desire than to any sense of duty or obligation. I see it as a positive task that needs to be done and needs to be done right. When I see the mistakes of the past, I look on those mistakes as opportunities to make corrections. Like art and music, genealogy is worth doing for its own sake and needs no deep or philosophical justification. Besides, after working with living clients for the past 39 years, it is refreshing to deal with dead ones.
No matter what the motivation, I am proud and happy to be a genealogist. I don't really care if people ignore me or whatever because of my interest, but I will continue to work until I am too old to do so.