I was recently asked, “What kind of impact do you think a career in this field makes?” I answered it slightly differently than asked. “What kind of impact can you make as a genealogist?”
The holidays are for family and friends and I hope you are celebrating sensibly in this time of pandemic. These holidays also make me think of holidays in the past and the impacts others have made on me. Our families make the largest impact, but I want to address the impact of each of us in the profession of genealogy.
My life work is in architecture. I never thought about a “legacy” until I was leaving The Ohio State University after having served as University Architect/AVP for 12 years. On the day I left, I identified over 40 major projects that our office had been engaged in during my tenure. That’s a lot of physical “legacy” on a campus.
My next career move took me to the University of Washington, School of Medicine. I never thought about legacy there either, until the last year I was there–2016. My boss said I had changed the physical face of the School of Medicine by bringing good design to our School. I was thrilled. The public face of the university’s SoM was visible and it was good.
So, now I devote my life to genealogy. What is my genealogical legacy? (FYI: While I can see the end of my genealogy career, it’s not the “train in the tunnel.” Don’t write the obituary yet!)
I think a person chooses a personal focus that interests them. That doesn’t mean that one consciously picks a focus so you leave a legacy. Any choice can be the vehicle for making a difference in other people’s lives. But you, working with other people, can make your legacy–not buildings and not a database and probably not paid work. You cannot know what will be impactful in a positive (or, unfortunately, a negative) way until at least time has past and in my case, at least 10 years.
I didn’t leave much of a legacy in my younger years, so I think age, maturity and knowledge imparted to others OVER TIME “makes a difference.”
The latter part of that statement is important. We have to give with a generous heart.
This is not to say we should give away research time or presentations. We deserve to be paid for what we do and paid appropriately. But, my volunteer work as president of the Seattle Genealogical Society will mean more to me than any client I have had. The establishment of the Certification Discussion Group means more to me than the actual submission of my portfolio. And the CDG will mean even more if it continues after my involvement is over.
The genealogical friends I have and have yet to meet are ones I cherish. And the fact that I have been able to do what I love to do–genealogy– while sharing that journey with them, has made a difference in MY life, if not their’s.
What I have done since the last post (which was scheduled for today but written a week ago.): Gaining a focus on Orphan Train Riders. I have three that were adopted into my family and their stories are fascinating. Sent out a survey to all CDG alumni and so far we have a 63% return. Not bad! Wrote postcards for TX, GA, CA, FL and others to get out the vote and trimmed up an article for publication.