Thursday, August 7, 2014

Mom has officially retired from active pursuit of genealogy! That's big news!

I guess I thought that she'd keep working at her big family tree until she "fell of the edge of the world", which is our euphemism for passing. But Mom's eyes are not as good as they once were and now limit her vision so she can't be on the computer or read too much, activities that she dearly loved. It wasn't too long ago that I'd call her and we'd both get on our computers to dig deep for some small tidbit that made us very happy to find. Heck, we even had fun when we didn't find a thing. I think it's been very difficult for her, getting used to not doing those things anymore. So finally she just up and retired from genealogy.

I hope that it eased the transition to know that I also cherish what we know about our ancestors. I've said it many times here before, any work I do in the arena of genealogy is done while standing tall on her shoulders... figuratively, of course because otherwise that would be elder abuse;) (Mom likes that joke.) There is, for all of her work, a built in succession plan, and she's trained this pip-squeak of a successor well, but I still have so much to learn from her.

Before I went to see her recently to celebrate her 96th birthday, she said quite a few times that she was retiring from genealogy. I guess I was reluctant to believe it, or maybe I didn't want to. But when I arrived I could see that she was serious. The binders were put away and the computer untouched. It made me sad. Yeah, I could see that she meant what she said about retiring.

But then I thought about it all and finally put it in perspective: Mom can rest, knowing she's made a real contribution. Cousin Rich had told me that Mom has built a tree that links together many, many families in the Morgan and Hampshire Counties of West Virginia, especially in the mid-1800s. It's landmark work, nothing as comprehensive out there, he indicated. I have seen for myself how important her work is and continues to be due to the numerous people who have contacted me because of her tree on Ancestry. You know her tree: Virginia Williams Kelly's Big Tree, the one with almost 70,000 people on it.

I asked Mom if I could "borrow" one of her books and she said, "Take what you want. I'm done with it." So I carefully went up to her room and started browsing to determine what I wanted. But I was melancholy doing it, I can tell you.

It marks the end of an era. I can easily remember the days when we were back and forth burning up the internet and the phone lines with what we'd found and comparing notes. By the time I got going on my own projects Mom was no longer making trips to court houses and libraries, so she'd slowed a bit already. For her to continue to slow was a natural progression.

Mom and I had a nice talk about it, in a round about sort of way. We both agreed that life events can sometimes limit our activities, and when that happens we need to get over ourselves as quickly as possible and start looking for a way to grow. Both she and I knew it was true from personal experience and chatted about ways in which events in our own lives had come to curtail certain activities. We concluded that it's our own individual responsibility to discover what's left that gives us joy and brings meaning. Life's never a static event, that's for sure!

As I got a bunch of her binders ready to take to the pack-and-ship place I saw it as the formal passing of the baton. I feel the responsibility to honor her work in the best ways that I can. It's a duty that I embrace, joyfully. I already have my inheritance and it's more valuable than a pot of gold!

I got sad, and now I'm glad. Thanks a million, Mom!



  1. Your post made me teary-eyed! It sounds like your mom is at peace with this & it's time for her to put it away. I hope she will still be cheering you on & eager to hear about your finds! But, it sounds like she's done wonderful things with her years of work. Best wishes as you continue on without her!

    1. Think that she's more OK with it than I am! Every time I pick up one of her binders I feel a twinge of sadness and then an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for all her work. And yes, she stills cheers me on:) She's the best!

  2. I told my MIL to stop researching. She felt so relieved. She's been doing research since it was 'hard'. Her Books of Remembrances are a GOLD MINE of journal entries, stories, documents, and more. She's done so much. I only asked my young Mother-In-Law to focus on scanning her photos (she's doing great!) and then recording the stories about the stuff in her home that she treasures. It's never to early to start figuring out who gets what if she passes away or downsizes. And to have the stories to go with the stuff would make the stuff become a treasure.

    Good job on letting Mom retire.