When I talk to people about my genealogy journey, how long I’ve been researching, my research technique, where I research, and some of my findings, the next question is usually how do you find the time to do it? I must admit that genealogy can take up a lot of your time spending time in libraries, researching on the computer, reading books, going to conferences, and trying to stay organized. But like any other hobby, you have to make time for the things you want to do.
I am a wife and a mother with a full-time job and other responsibilities. So genealogy research isn’t the only thing on my to-do list every week. I have a very active teenage son, my husband has a small business, and my parents are gracefully aging. I have friends that I don’t see enough of, errands to run, and other hobbies that I enjoy. Sometimes it can be a challenge to find time for my research. I do have to make a conscious effort to make the time. Do I feel guilty that my research takes me away from time with my family….Yes? Do I think some of the time I spend at libraries could be spent catching up and hanging out with my friends…Yes? Do I feel like the money I spend on my research journey could be spent on other things for my family and our household….Yes? But I’m committed to this journey and this research process and sometimes that means making sacrifices that aren’t always understood by others.
So how do I make the time to research? I actually get a lot of research done during football season. I’m not a fan of the game. So when my husband and son go to the Razorback football games sometimes I will have him drop me off at the University of Arkansas library. In my house football starts on Thursday and ends on Monday night. So I use those days when I know my husband will be watching football to go to the library and research that way I feel like I won’t be missed. And now that my son is older and hangs out with his friends more. I will drop him off at the pool for a few hours with his friends, and I will go to the library. But when I have my really guilty mom moments when I feel like I haven’t spent enough time with my son that week, but I have a genealogy lead that I’m working on, I will take him with me to the library. It was easier taking him with me when he was younger. He doesn’t want to go with me much now that he’s a teenager, but I take him anyway. I want him to see what I’m doing because this is just as much his history as it is my own. Hopefully these will be memories he will have of us when he gets older.
Researching your family’s communities is a big part of genealogy. So I have a lot of books about Arkansas, slavery, farming, Jackson and Woodruff counties, and genealogy in general that I’m always reading. How do I make time read? I always keep a book in my car and in my purse. I was reading about genealogy while I was waiting in the line to vote last November. I take books to read during my son’s basketball games, band concerts, or when I’m waiting for him at practice. He always has to be somewhere early or have multiple games, so I’m usually standing up against the wall reading. I also read when we travel. My husband typically drives when we go out-of-town, so I take that opportunity to read during that time spent in the car. Since I know I will more than likely go to sleep on the plane, I read while we are waiting at the gate for the plane to arrive.
I am really lucky to have two excellent genealogy libraries within 30 minutes of my house, the University of Arkansas library and the Fayetteville Public library. So it helps that I can find special collections, newspapers, census, and other types of genealogy references from all of Arkansas as well as other states so close to home. I do as much of my research in Northwest Arkansas and on the computer as I can during the fall and winter. That way I can go to state archives, the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, and other cities during the spring and summer months when the weather is nicer. I also include some genealogy research time in our vacation itinerary once we have decided where we are going.
Finding the time to continue this journey isn’t always easy. And there are certainly times when I’m researching and not finding what I’m looking for even after hours and hours or sometimes days or weeks of researching. But I don’t give up, I just keep researching harder because I know once I do find that genealogy gem all the time and effort would have been more than worth it. And this is why my journey continues…