Thursday, March 1, 2012

When Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness wear you down

I have never been adverse to sharing my information. I often receive requests for information regarding ancestors, distant and not so distant. Often this can take several hours (or more) of compiling reports, adding images and certificates if not already posted to my online public tree. However lately, the requests for information have been coming thick and fast; sometimes regarding people who are so distant to me that I can only provide basic details. For example, the question may be regarding an ancestor of my cousin's father (or his sister) and I would like to keep that basic information on my tree for my close relatives  their descendants - especially for those who are not currently into genealogy. So delve deeper I do and it often feels like I am doing what a paid Genealogist would do for nothing. I have been know to purchase certificates for these far flung branches. Yes, it does add to my overall knowledge, but it is certainly way off the road of my own current research. Though I must admit I am learning, in that my latest response was much less involved; but even finding the person on the tree, gathering the source information, and compiling an email set me back an hour.

I always reply promptly and with cheerfulness and often ask that if they have additional information "would they mind sending it on to me" - With many thanks in advance.

I don't mind if they have nothing to share, but I do believe that I am turning into a grumpy old woman, feeling less and less like performing these RAGK. In the past few weeks, I have answered maybe a dozen or so of these queries, and I have received not one "Thank you for your information..."

My time is precious, being a full time carer, and I am wondering why I spend my time doing other peoples research - they could go through the same processes that I have done to compile the information, but hey! why reinvent the wheel I think. Or do I do it for the "Thanks" - is that being selfish or is it just rude not to reply to someone who has helped you out?

I am really beginning to questioning my motives in doing this added research; maybe people don't realise how little time I have to myself, though my profile on my major online tree (where most requests originate) says that I am a carer, as does my Google+ profile. Am I a sucker for any old request, wanting praise for my efforts? Should I continue to spend so much time on things that bring no reward? Should I want a reward or thanks?

I know I am not getting much done here on the home front for myself; my writing challenge fell by the wayside in favour of answering these questions, and I do feel slightly burnt out, so question to self - do I politely refuse, knowing that I could be helpful? Do I continue to spend my precious time and hope for some one to reciprocate or even just say Thank you? Or maybe I should just make my tree private, so that I wont be hassled in future.

Somehow, all these scenarios seem wrong. Maybe I am just struggling with my own conscience and needs and deep down know that it is right to continue to help those who ask without wanting anything in return. 

Am I alone out there? 

Regardless, Thank you for taking the time to listen to my gripes.


  1. Dear Linda

    I have always wrestled with saying "No". Family history research does take time and effort. It's also so interesting that it can be hard to resist the temptation. But it does sound like you are reaching burn-out in this particular area at the moment. Why not be honest and just say you've reached "dolly's wax" and need some time out? Or that you will help but on your own timeline and only when you're feeling enthusiastic again. Or can you design a template response that encourages people to do their own research with some links to repositories that you've found useful in the past, if you feel you must give them something?

    I'm part of a research team at my own local family history society and sometimes it feels like the requests come in quick succession. Thank goodness I'm on a team because my life is pretty busy at the moment and I couldn't cope otherwise.

  2. It sounds like the activity is not fun anymore. It is ok to say no and take a break. Work on the family lines that interest you.

  3. I've been in a similar position, and I reached a point where I just had to walk away from it all. But you don't want to alienate distant relatives who (in the distant future!) may suddenly decide to share. I like Alex's suggestions. Say that you would like to *exchange* information but need some time out just now, and have a standard reply ready to copy and paste, with tips on how to do their own research.

  4. I agree with you Linda. There seems to be an increasing trend of taking other people's hard work and running off with it. No thought of thanks, acknowledgements or exchange (doesn't have to be equal). I don't mind helping and often help out friends etc but I get really cross when none of these three things are done, and I'm not even a carer. In fact on Monday I was ready to rant myself but chilled down. Take care of yourself, do the research that energises you, prepare a standard email that says "sorry I can't help right now" /"only have minimal info" and perhaps includes links to BDM online etc. You are entitled to prioritise yourself and your energy levels. I've just read Judy's comment and see we've said similar things.