The Hidden Branch are young genealogists, who began interviewing older genealogy friends to learn what it was like researching when they were young.
The responses were many and answers have been eye-opening.
My alter ego, Sir Leprechaunrabbit® was privileged to be their second interview, which follows:
Give us a brief introduction about yourself
On Twitter, I am the long-eared bunny bartender from #genchat, an #AncestryHour Ambassador and I can be found on most of social media venues, as “leprchaunrabbit”
I happily promote all genealogy discussion groups as I find them and I try to participate in their discussions – my German is improving (my Tante E would be so proud!).
I embrace all ages, and experiences, of those who hold an interest in genealogy. We have all started out with nothing and built up our documented collections — it is just the lucky few who started out younger than most.
I am married to MiLadyRabbit. It will be our 18th anniversary this July (2021). From our previous marriages, she has a daughter, and a son and two grandchildren; while I have my “trio of Army men” (sons) and one grandson.
How old were you when you began your genealogy journey?
I was a nine year-old innocent. I did not foresee the dark, apocalyptic endeavour that would slowly take over my life! It has managed to survive marriage, divorce, a military career, a cross-country move and fourteen computer crashes.
How did you get into genealogy? Did you do it by yourself or did someone help you?
My Grade Three teacher, is to blame! Madame Gallant exposed me to genealogy, but it was Gramma Rabbit (AKA my paternal grandmother, Emily MOREAU, 1906-1975) who made certain it would be fatal!
Disguised as homework for social studies, Madame asked the class to draw our family tree! No explanations, just draw.
I was artistically challenged back then – and, yes, even to this day a big, smiley face is beyond my capabilities, so, I thought that I could do one better: bring it in for Show ‘n’ Tell!
I wrote on my blog how I failed my genealogy assignment Stolen: One Garden Trowel, if you are interested to read it
What was it like being a young genealogist in the early 1970s [my decade]?
Did you meet anyone your age at the time who also was interested in family history research?
The Alex Haley movie ROOTS came out in January 1977. Everyone got bit with the genealogy bug, and they eagerly sought help from each other, but they would not consider any assistance being offered from a 14-year-old with five-years of research experience!
“Go away kid, you bother me,” was their glib remark, but more often times a flippant W.C. Fields impression, that made my involvement very unwelcome.
It had only been one and a half years earlier (June 1975), when my Gramma Rabbit had passed away; and with all the negativity from the senior-aged researchers around me, I was missing her very, very much.
Half-heartedly I continued in silence; enjoying the quiet but loathing the loneliness, with only my school studies taking precedence.
For years, Mama Rabbit tried to convince herself that it was just a phase I was going through. By the time I reached my 21st birthday, she gave up trying.
How do you think genealogy research has changed since you started back in 1972?
- most repositories had banking hours that conflicted with school hours
- mail was via the postal services and took ten days to get across town and up to eight weeks for international replies — IF they replied
- pens were NOT permitted in public libraries or archives
- white gloves were a must!
- internet access was limited to universities and Research & Development businesses
At nine-years-old, my travelling was limited to public transit or walking.
If money was involved to acquire proofs or copies, it could not go beyond a self-addressed stamped envelope or ten cents a page using the public library photocopiers!
It was not until 1993, when I got access to a computer!
The next major leaps forward were ZIP drives (1994), thumb drives (2000-2018), EVERNOTE® note taking software (2000), AXCRYPT® encryption software (2002), digital camera (2005), wireless headset/microphone (2012), external hard drives (2015), PHOTOMYNE® photo scanning app (2015) and multiple screens (2 in 2017, and 3 in 2019).
As of 2018, I am now on my second laptop (fourth computer); and, as of 2019 my third cellphone with 64M extended memory.
What were the challenges of searching for family back then?
Back in the early 1970s with Gramma Rabbit leading the way, I would take gravestone photographs – long before it was cool.
Trying to arrange meetings with my eldest generations to talk with them. Once I got my driver’s license, most of them were already gone.
Unfortunately, my mother and father’s generations did not want to talk when I asked them; but when they finally did, I was either serving overseas in the army, or busy with a growing family of my own.
How did you do your research with, limited technical or, less access to information?
Extensive note taking! I went everywhere with two spiral bound books.
One was a research log, while the other contained transcriptions, citations, postal addresses and observations.
Obituaries were my first go-to, followed by family plots in cemeteries.
Tell us a bit more about your work as a genealogist.
This is still just a hobby. I would love to get my certification, but I have not seen a professionally prepared genealogy report to understand if I could piece one together. (Yes, I am afraid of taking on too much and failing.).
When I have less than an hour to do some daily research, I go to online and look up obituaries. Whenever I have some spare time outside, I still take pictures in cemeteries. Sometimes filling requests, other times, capturing the artistic work of the stonemasons.