Catching the Bug...
I have had an interest in genealogy since the ripe old age of 10! Around that time, my parents received a copy of "Emigrant from the Highlands" by J. Clinton Morrison, Jr. I found this family history of Robert Wallace Morrison and his descendants both fascinating and intriguing. At first I was amazed by the sheer number of people who, somehow, were all related to me even though they were from other times or other places. Later, I became enamoured with the biographical details that filled the book: it didn't matter whether the individuals were noteworthy or not - simply the fact that something of them had been discovered, recorded, and preserved for posterity was enough. I'm sure I read the book, from cover-to-cover, at least twice. The condition of the dust jacket testifies to the fact it has been referred to many more times over the years.
Clint Morrison's decision to hold Morrison family reunions, two of which I attended (including the first), only served to expand my interest in genealogy. I had read about my relatives and ancestors in the book. At the reunions, I met some of the living relatives face-to-face. And, thanks to Clint, I was able to see the remains of the original Morrison homestead and visit the church where, generations before, my ancestors had attended service. The seeds of genealogy had taken root!
Growing up, I continued to have an interest in family history. In most respects it was a passing interest, since I didn't become fully involved with the research and data compilation. I did make some efforts at it, interviewing immediate family, sending questionnaires to more distant relatives, and even spending a couple of days at the Provincial Archives of Nova Scotia. But, I didn't fully understand or appreciate the hobby. For the most part, genealogy remained in the background while I kept busy with normal childhood activities such as school, Scouts, hockey, and so on. I maintained a love of history, but it was military instead of family history and my hobby was collecting military medals, not names and dates.
While attending university I learned that my grandmother's cousin, Claudia Rogers, was researching our Rogers family tree. Although we didn't know each other at the time, she forwarded copies of her research to me through my mother and grandmother. I was, it seems, the only other person in the family with any interest at all in genealogy. By default, I became the beneficiary of her work, which culminated with her 1991 publication of "A Rogers Family Chronicle", written in conjunction with another cousin, Evan Benjamin "Ben" Rogers. During this period (1987-1992) I acquired my first genealogy software and began entering what information I had into a computerized database. And yet I still wasn't actively researching on my own - a decision I now regret considering I spent five years at UNB Fredericton, where the New Brunswick Provincial Archives are housed. I never once set foot into the Archives itself despite attending classes just two buildings away at Head Hall, where the Faculty of Engineering is located. But Claudia's correspondence did help me to stay interested in genealogy.
A few years after graduation, while sitting down to supper one evening, I read an article in the local newspaper that discussed genealogical research on the Internet. It described the explosion of historical and genealogical-related material on the World Wide Web and how it was quickly becoming a new research avenue for genealogists. Strangely, it listed only one site. Curious, I checked it out. I didn't find a lot on the original site but, by following the various links, ended up in sites devoted to Maritime research. In particular, I found the Island Register, an amazing website dedicated to Prince Edward Island research. I was hooked!!
What had once been a passing interest in genealogy quickly turned into an obsession! Through the internet I discovered websites, message boards, mailing lists, and much more. They helped me to locate new resources and, more importantly, contact other researchers with similar interests. Finally, I began conducting active research of my own. When time permitted, I would spend my lunch hours at the Centre d'études acadiennes. I would also return there on Thursday evenings, the one weeknight they were open. My old laptop, a hand-me-down from my father, was taken from its case and set up, permanently, on my old computer desk - my first computer, an 8088 I purchased new in 1989 having been rendered obsolete. I updated my genealogy software and learned how to use MS Word, Excel, and a few other programs. I also went through various boxes and bins, many which hadn't been opened in years, and took out all the notes and correspondence which I had collected over the years. There was no doubt I was hooked!
Since that fateful night in 1997, my passion for genealogy has continued to grow. Along with expanding my database, I try to expand my knowledge of the hobby itself. There is more to genealogy than collecting names and dates and entering them into a computer program. Becoming better researchers only helps us in gathering more data and, more importantly, making better sense of it all.
I am a firm believer in expanding our research beyond the usual sources and types of information. The names and dates are meaningless if we don't have an understanding of who our ancestors were as individuals. Clint Morrison and, later, Ross Graves (Mr. Graves' book "William Schurman, Loyalist of Bedeque, Prince Edward Island" was actually published 4 years earlier but I only acquired a copy of it after I had read Clint's book) had led me to appreciate the importance of biographical material. Some researchers believe the personal details supplement the names and dates - I feel the opposite is true.
I also believe that we must expand our research beyond the individuals. We must study their communities, their social and religious groups, the economy and its effect on their occupations, and their level of education, or lack thereof. We must be able to use this data to understand what our ancestors did and why; to learn how they coped with the situations they were faced with; to appreciate their reactions, good or bad; and, to see how all of this caused the family and community to develop and change over time. Finally, we must be able to examine this from a historical context - a viewpoint contemporary not to us but to our ancestors. After all, they did not share the same experiences, beliefs or ideals that we have today.
Presently, most of my own research is once again on-hold. During the last year or so, I have concentrated instead on my books, three of which have been completed and self-published. Three more are in the works. I have also developed this website and, when time permits, I add a little more information to it. Finally, I have decided to branch into professional research. I won't say that I've been flooded with work, but I have completed a couple of projects, one of which was quite extensive. I not only found it rewarding to assist others - I immensely enjoyed the work itself.
I have also become involved in the local genealogical community. In 2002-2003, I offered my services to the PEI Genealogical Society, assisting them with cemetery transcript updates. From 2003-2009, I served on the executive of the Southeastern Branch, New Brunswick Genealogical Society. In 2004 I updated the NBGS Website and served as webmaster until early 2011. Also, in 2004, I presented two lectures: "Genealogy for Beginners" and "Introduction to the Internet for Genealogy." Again, I greatly enjoy the experience, especially the ability to assist others. Perhaps I should have studied education instead of engineering...
16 July 2012
Okay, so I guess it wasn't quite terminal...
Fact is, work, family and life in general has gotten in the way these past few years. After a while, it became quite apparent to me why many wait until retirement before becoming active and addicted researchers. When you're young, working and trying to raise a family it's often difficult to make time for hobbies and other personal pursuits.
It's not a bad thing, it's just the way life is.
So, although I haven't really lost my interest in or passion for genealogy, I simply haven't had as much time as I'd like to work at it. What does that mean? Well, it means I no longer serve my local genealogical societies in any capacity. I no longer maintain the NBGS website. I can't update this site as often as I'd like. I don't have the time to locate and add new material to the resources I've posted here. I can't conduct new research to update the existing files. Nor do I have the time to organize and computerize my personal research, much of which continues to exist as a collection of handwritten notes, scattered across numerous file folders, binders and boxes.
And it's the latter I'd like you to keep in mind when contacting me for information. What might take a few seconds for some to locate in their genealogical software's database might mean an hour or more of digging for me to find in my files. And whereas others can simply press a button to generate descendant reports and family records, it might take me several hours of work to compile a short report. More often than not, I simply don't have the time to do that, no matter how much I'd like to help you out.
I'm not trying to discourage you from contacting me, I'm just hoping you'll understand my situation and appreciate why I may not be able to offer the assistance you were hoping to receive. I do find it frustrating when I'm unable to help others. After all, I'm so grateful for all of those who've helped me.