Robin Foster standing in front of the grave of grandmother, Ora Foster (1899-1971), in Mount Glenwood Cemetery, Illinois.
By Robin Foster
My connections to the past have become a large part of my identity. Every piece I find reveals more about my own potential. When you have been bitten by the genealogy bug, I have learned that it is so important to make sure you remain in the land of the living. People can tell if you are juggling other responsibilites at the same time or if you really have everything in balance.
Sometimes I have had so much going on at once that I have had to step away from everything to weigh my priorities and make sure I am spending time on the most important things in my life. It does not hurt my feelings anymore when people that I think should show interest in what I am doing do not. I realize everyone is in their own place and season of their lives.
I feel fortunate that I am free to choose what I want to work on, and I know that I might be the person called to just share or make it available to others. My struggle is that researching and sharing is a vicious cycle and it is easy to drift away from important people who are not so involved with what I am doing. I always try to find what their needs are and ways to connect with them that does not always involve family history to the degree I think it should.
After presentations practically every month of 2014 so far and a host of other projects like restoring a family cemetery, I knew I was beginning to juggle. Juggling keeps us from actually enjoyng what we are doing. We cannot do it all. When you are in the thick of it, it is hard to tell what adjustments need to be made. You feel guilty about even having to choose to let some things go. Most importantly, you begin to feel like you are just going through the motions and inspiration is having a hard time getting through.
In July, I took an abrupt haitus back to Chicago. I did visit Mount Glenwood Cemetery to find the graves of people on my father's side of the family. I spent time with my mom and siblings and their children. It felt good to reconnect to the people who have known me the longest. I had a lot of time to reflect. Stepping away from everything helped me see things I had been missing.
I remember posting a request to have others identify a headstone on my Facebook timeline. Because of that, my dear friend Jan Edwards let me know that she had been wanting to help with the Fairview Cemetery Project. I should have thought to ask her, but I just assumed she was too busy. Over the course of three weeks while I was in Illinois, she helped find over 2000 obituaries that I have been linking to people buried in Fairview and other local cemeteries. She has also discovered a host of death certificates.
That kind of help from Jan brought a huge relief to me, and we are so much further along with linking people interred in local cemeteries into family groups. I even found connections to my family that had not been proven.
In addition to Jan becoming a team member of the Fairview Cemetery Project, we felt inspired that we needed to put our expertise together to help everyone that we can reach online and offline. We used to work well into the wee hours of the morning building and answering questions posted in the FamilySearch Genealogy Research Communties on Facebook. We can practically read each other's minds and we do finish each other's sentences. Jan is a great researcher and teacher, and we both have a passion for helping people identify ancestors. We especially love the tough challenges. Jan had started the Facebook group, Genealogy! Just Ask! We decided to go all out, so now you can call on both of us for assistance with your research.
When I returned home, we set up this blog and our social media sites. We have so many more fun ideas to incorporate. I feel really charged and happy now. I am not juggling even though we moved this past week, and I found myself stopping to unpack a box, line shelves, and set up my office among other things so my prescious husband would enjoy us getting settled in.
Yesterday, our daughter and son-in-law came out and spent a good deal of time with us. I hope my reflections inspire you to make sure you are not juggling but in balance. In all of our getting balanced in genealogy, we need to remember the living too. They are the future bridges to the past. We need to stay connected to them so they will feel the desire to carry on after us.