Ruth's Genealogy

“I don't know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.” -Abraham Lincoln

High school yearbooks. So important to high school kids. Photographs of students, teachers, administrators. Activities, such as clubs, sports, band. Autographs. Memories. Pretty much all things high school.

And in Small Town, America, high school yearbooks really document the entire community.

HALLJamesDixon_b1929_1971 (2)My Dad has spent his entire life as a mechanic. He specializes in foreign car repair and owned his own repair service for many years. And in his younger days, he built and drove Volkswagen Beetle race cars! I have photos of some of those race cars and have located several advertisements for his business in Fort Worth Star-Telegram archives. But he also owned that business in Arkansas and Colorado. How to document the Arkansas location? The only apparent way to search through the local newspaper’s old issues would be to take a trip to Arkansas. But was there another way…

It suddenly occurred to me to look in my high school yearbooks! Such books frequently contain advertisements from local businesses, as a way to help pay for the books’ printing costs. So I quickly located my 4 annuals and flipped each one open to the back of the book, where the ads are located:

HALLJamesDixon_b1929_1973 YB addHALLJamesDixon_b1929_1974 YB addHALLJamesDixon_b1929_1975 YB add

Here are the advertisements from my 1973, 1974 and 1975 De Queen High School yearbooks! TOO COOL!

no funI haven’t done any serious research in a long time… years, actually. Just lost interest. Burned out. Distracted by…

To be brutally honest, the effort to create the perfect source citation just killed the desire. I am a perfectionist, and could probably be obsessive-compulsive with little effort. Very little effort. Daily, I have to stop myself and force myself to step back and see the whole picture, rather than obsess on the tiniest detail. I can walk past my dining room table and if the centerpiece is not absolutely centered, I have to adjust it. If the pillows on the couch are not in the best possible alignment, I have to stop and realign them. When I was in college, my grades had to be all A’s, or I would get really upset. Gradually, over the years, I’ve learned to temper my perfectionism. Will the world end if there’s one dirty dish in the sink? Probably not.

But I allowed that perfectionism to take over my genealogy research and documentation. I became so stressed over trying to make sure every source citation was by The Book, down to the last comma, that I gave up. It was just too hard. Genealogy wasn’t fun anymore.

But, for the past month, I have been “doing” genealogy almost daily. I went back to the beginning. My generation, my parents’ generation. I’m currently working on my maternal grandmother’s file. Going back and reviewing each person.

And yes, each fact has a source citation. With rare exception, if it doesn’t have a verifiable source, it doesn’t go in my database. And, in general, the citations follow the rules set forth in The Book. In general. I read somewhere, long ago, that a source citation should be able to easily lead a person to that source. Whether it be in an online database, a library or a courthouse. My citations do that. They may not be perfect, as set forth in The Book, but they get the job done. If my next-door neighbor knocked on my door and asked me how I know that my great-grandfather worked for the railroad, I could show her my file on him and she could easily locate the same documents that prove his employment.

Not perfect… and that’s ok.