We are so focused on finding things in genealogy that sometimes we actually lose things instead – more often than not, our minds. I think I reached that point this afternoon. I’ve been juggling a large number of genealogical projects for quite awhile now. Various combinations of professional, personal, and volunteer obligations have had me hopping from one thing to the next without much break in between.
As the committee chair for seminars at one of the groups to which I belong, I called an early meeting prior to our general meeting to work out the finer points of the seminar coming up at the end of the month. I had to have all my stuff together for that plus everything for the regular meeting. Afterwards, I was planning to head to Akron to do some research and needed everything for that, including my stringer of flash drives. This is where the day started going south and my own sanity called into question.
I clearly remember taking the flash drives out of the usb port where they’ve lived for a month and putting them “somewhere where I would remember to take them.” The problem was, I couldn’t remember where that “somewhere” was. I spent the better part of 10 minutes looking, and already late, gave up – resigned to just stopping to buy a new drive on the way.
The meetings went well enough. A major obstacle to the seminar caused by the current construction project is the lack of an easy way to transport coffee to the seminar room. One thing I’ve learned about genealogy folks from serving on various committees is that most people apparently come to genealogy events for coffee and donuts, not genealogy. At least that’s the impression I’ve gotten from the percentage of time devoted to the topics at the meetings I go to. If there’s no coffee, you better be prepared to cancel the event or go ahead and enter your own death date in your database before you show up and announce that fact.
As I had never been there, a kind soul offered to walk me around the part of the building where the seminar was being held. Due to the construction, from our meeting room to where we needed to go required a trip outside, through the parking lot, and back in another door. It’s Cleveland. It’s March. It’s cold. We needed our coats. I gathered up my various folders, computer, and other accessories, threw on my coat and off we went. After the tour, with all of the morning’s business crossed off the list, I headed back to my car to roar off to Akron for the afternoon.
At the car, after carefully setting down the 25 things I had under my arms, I discovered a terrible truth: my car keys were not in the coat pocket I distinctly remembered putting them in upon my arrival. Uh-oh. I retraced my steps. I looked high. I looked low. I looked in between. I began to panic. I started looking in ridiculous places they couldn’t possibly be: the drinking fountain, in my notebook, in between pieces of paper. While this was being conducted, several people wanted to discuss strategic planning with me. Really? PLANNING?? Didn’t you happen to notice I just looked in a drinking fountain for my car keys? Do you really want me to help you plan right now??
In desperation, I thought perhaps there was a hole in the lining of my coat pocket that allowed the keys to get lodged somewhere in between the layers. I patted my coat down, suddenly noticing that it didn’t seem to be holding up very well for a relatively new coat. I didn’t feel anything, but decided to take it off and shake it to be sure. When I took it off, the answer suddenly revealed itself to me in the lining of the coat: THIS WAS NOT MY COAT.
I don’t know what the odds are that within a genealogy library coat room that there would be a coat so similar to mine – and one that actually FIT me well enough - that I never even suspected it was not my own. They can’t be very high. With great relief and much laughing, I put the coat back on a hanger and grabbed the next black wool coat on the rack. It wasn’t mine either. Finally, on the third attempt I managed to get my own coat with the car keys still safely in its pocket. In addition to coffee, genealogists would also seem to demand black wool coats.
Heading to my car, I was later than ever. The meeting had run over, the tour had taken a while, and the search for the keys and trying on everyone’s coat had really eaten up some time. Setting down all of my stuff again to free up a hand to get the keys, I realized that someone was clearly trying to tell me something. All of this was happening for a reason. These were signs. They said I needed to give myself a break. Slow down a little bit. Maybe today was a day to head home and relax rather than race off to Akron to do research. Besides, what are the chances of finding someone’s ancestors on a day I couldn’t even manage to find my own coat?
As I got int the car, I realized there was another person who had benefited from the fact that I put my car keys in my coat pocket this morning. Had I put them in my pants pocket as I had initially started to do, some poor guy about my size would be without his coat right now; me on my way to Akron, destined to not discover the switch until much later. Granted, mine was a little newer, and would apparently have fit him. I’m sure he would have liked my coat better.
In life, like in research, you have to follow the clues, so here I sit, telling you my story. May you have better luck in your searches for your dead people than I had today finding my keys. Just follow the clues.