What’s Next

What’s Next

by Kerry Scott on 29 January 2010


Once upon a time, I decided to move to Milwaukee.  So that’s how it started.

I lived in southern California in the early 1990s.  My family and I are originally from Minneapolis, but we moved around a lot, and I grew up mostly in southern California.  I was 21, and I’d had enough of California, and I wanted to leave.  So I moved to Milwaukee.

The thing was—I’d never been to Milwaukee.  I didn’t know anybody in Milwaukee.  In fact, I had to look on a map to be sure where Milwaukee was (clue:  It’s actually really close to Chicago.  That’s how we get stuff from IKEA.  We don’t have IKEA up here.)  I’d lived in Minneapolis, though, so I figured it would be pretty much the same thing.  Plus, I’d seen Laverne and Shirley and Happy Days.  That was enough, right?  Plus, if I didn’t like it, I could just move someplace else, right?

This is the way my brain worked when I was 21.  I was completely fearless.  I miss that girl.

So I moved to this strange town all by myself.  It was a big adventure.  Everyone should do this at least once.

My family is very small, but I had a distant cousin who still lived up in Minnesota.  She was 90 years old when I moved to Milwaukee, and she wrote me a letter in which she told me that I actually had roots in Wisconsin.  She said my great-great-great-grandparents had been early settlers in West Bend, Wisconsin (about 45 minutes north of Milwaukee), and that they were buried there.  This was news to me.  I thought we’d always been Minnesotans.  I had no idea we had any connection to Wisconsin at all.  Being alone in a strange place, I found this news oddly comforting.

My cousin died very shortly after she wrote the letter, so I never got to ask her more about these grandparents.  I decided that I’d find this West Bend place myself and check it out.  I looked in the White Pages (kids, that’s how we did things in 1992) and found the Washington County Historical Society.  I called them and spoke to a little old lady, and I explained that I’d heard that my great-great-grandparents were buried up there.  She said she’d call me back.

And she did.  She called and told me where my grandparents were buried.  Then she said this:

“You know, we have a whole file on them.”

And that’s the line that changed everything for me.

I made arrangements to see the file…which turned out to include the original, handwritten will of my great-great-great-grandma, and tons of other information as well.  I spent the next several years’ worth of Saturday mornings at the library, doing research on my family.  Later, I moved to Washington, DC, where I spent another two years’ worth of Saturday mornings at the National Archives and the Library of Congress.  I joined the National Genealogical Society, and a bunch of other genealogical and historical societies.  I was a serious researcher.  Whenever someone asked what I’d do if I won the lottery, I said, “I’d be a professional genealogist.”

Then I moved back to Milwaukee, got married, worked my way up the HR ladder, and had two kids.  I hardly did any research at all.  I wanted to, but I always had a million other things I had to get done.  Still, when someone asked what I’d do if I won the lottery, I said, “I’d be a professional genealogist.”

And then, when I stopped working, I started a blog…about job hunting, not family history.  Because I’d spent the past 14 years immersed in hiring people, and it was easy.  To go back and pick up my research again, after a decade away from it…that’s hard.  To make a complete career change (especially to something that sounds so dorky to most people)…that’s hard.  To leave behind everything I’d worked for for those 14 years…man, that’s hard.  HR was good to me.  It would be much safer to let it just keep on being good to me.

Here’s the thing though:  the older you get, the harder it is.  A lot of people wish they did something else for a living, but they never actually do anything about it.  Those are the people who are angry and bitter at work, who are always bitching and whining and rolling their eyes, because they never had the nerve to make a change.  I can’t stand those people.  They suck.  The older I get, though, the more I understand how easy it is to end up in that place.

So screw that.  I’m making the change.  I’ve stopped talking about HR, and I’m working on my research.  Eventually, I’ll be a professional genealogist…or maybe something else.  I don’t know.  But I know I’ve made the decision to take a different road here, and I’m going to see where it leads me.

But what I really wanted to tell you was this:  If you want, you can come with me.  Within the next few weeks, I plan to start blogging again…not about job hunting, but about my new life, and about the process of making a huge life change, and possibly about ice cream (because my new life needs to involve ice cream, or we can just forget this whole thing).  If you’d like to join me, you should subscribe via RSS or by email so you don’t miss it.  You can also follow me on Twitter, or just check back here obsessively.

I don’t know if you’ll like it or not, because I’m not totally sure what all I have to say.  But it’ll be an adventure.  Like moving to Milwaukee…but…well, cooler.  Or maybe not as cool.  Whatever.  Just come with, dammit.  Geez.  Don’t be so snooty.

(Oh, and confidential to my Milwaukee friends…I’m REALLY sorry about the reference to Laverne and Shirley.  I know how you hate that.)

Photo by Noahg.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Christine January 29, 2010 at 7:49 am

I just signed up for the email subscription – I’d love to come with you on this new adventure!


Robert LaGow January 29, 2010 at 8:38 am

Your kids and grandkids will appreciate the Alex Haley work you’re doing. My mom (D.A.R. & Daughters of the Republic of Texas [tougher to get into than the DAR]) has done the leg work for me and my boys. She traced one line back to the French Huguenots and another back to 1228 or somesuch ridiculous date.


Tammy Colson January 29, 2010 at 9:16 am

Wow, cool.
I’ve been working on the family history since 1994, some of my research even linked in with classes I was taking in college (isn’t that a cool way to get class credit ~grin~) , I was on my way to being a genealogist – the degree is in history. But then I set it aside when I went back to recruiting in 2000. As with you, life got in the way.

I look forward to reading about your journey. Maybe it will inspire me to dive back into my own research. Bon Courage.


Sabrina January 29, 2010 at 10:30 am

Very cool! I was always interested in this except on my dad’s side the work is already done (they’re southern, family math is a past time) and on my mom’s side, I don’t really know where to even start. Good luck!! :)


thuy January 29, 2010 at 10:32 am

That’s great news that you’r back to blogging! I’m looking forward to it!


Em-Dash January 29, 2010 at 10:41 am


Welcome Back Clue Wagon and Kerry! Take time, figure it out, and go for it — ALL of it! Best wishes, and I’m completely along for the ride.
.-= Em-Dash´s last blog ..I would like a secret bunker too! =-.


kate January 29, 2010 at 10:53 am

Brava! This is so cool – I can’t wait to come along for the ride. Especially if ice cream is involved.


Teresa Morris January 29, 2010 at 12:33 pm

I’m totally coming along for the ride. You’ve been in my RSS feed for ages anyway, and you’re not getting rid of me by talking about something you love.

One request, though – can we have bacon, too?


Kerry January 29, 2010 at 1:14 pm

I’m a vegetarian, so you’ll have to bring your own bacon. Believe me, you don’t want me trying to cook any sort of dead animal for you.


susan January 29, 2010 at 1:07 pm

“come with.” I had a roommate from wisconsin who said that all the time and it drove me crazy! but I’m looking forward to reading about your new endeavor! :)
.-= susan´s last blog ..rowr! =-.


Kristy January 29, 2010 at 5:04 pm

That’s so cool! I’ve always wanted to learn how to research genealogy (seeing as how the window of my office looks right down on family history library), but never had the time to learn how to do it. I’m excited to read about your adventure!
.-= Kristy´s last blog ..Things That Made Me Laugh This Week =-.


Amy Boland January 29, 2010 at 7:06 pm


Coming with, coming with!
.-= Amy Boland´s last blog ..Julia Child, and Beef, in Real Life =-.


abdpbt January 29, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Yay! I’m excited for you and to hear about your new journey. I think it’s awesome that you’re going to keep blogging, and I’d guess lots of your readers will stick around just because they like you and the way you write — the topic is not so important sometimes.
.-= abdpbt´s last blog ..Real Stuff =-.


K. Borcz January 29, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Love it! Much success and learning on your new adventure. I’ll follow along to see how it goes.
.-= K. Borcz´s last blog ..new blog =-.


Antropologa January 29, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Hey, your blog title will still fit!


Tim G January 30, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Good to know you will be back to the blog. I never unsubscribed, so I will be looking forward to your posts.
While I find the topic interesting, and every once in a while wonder about some of my ancestors, I also am reminded of the adage: “If you don’t want to know the answer, don’t ask the question.” In other words, not sure I want to know that much about it! But I am looking forward to your journey.
.-= Tim G´s last blog ..Day 20,007 – I AM an Athlete! =-.


Bill G January 30, 2010 at 11:45 pm

Glad you’re back! I knew keeping my ClueWagon RSS feed was the right thing to do. That “two weeks notice” post didn’t scare me off.

Adventure on! And keep that ice cream close by. Ice cream is the universal cure-all :-)


Michelle January 31, 2010 at 8:33 pm

I know that I’m probably behind the bus on the point of your post, but I am so curious as to what you found out about your West Bend great-great-greats. Easily distracted by footnotes? Yes!

Congrats on having the courage to change. That’s the hardest bit. Best of luck!
.-= Michelle´s last blog ..Merry Christmas! =-.


Kerry February 1, 2010 at 5:50 am

I can’t even tell you all how much you’re helping. For real.

Michelle—I found all kinds of things about those g-g-g-grandparents, which will almost certainly become fodder for a post (or several posts) at some point.
.-= Kerry´s last blog ..What’s Next =-.


Debi February 1, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Kerry, hopefully you remember me from our hr-man days and the e-mails you sent to me about starting with genealogy. I still have those and just pulled them out recently! I’ve finally started my journey and am having a blast learning about my family. And now I’ll sign up for your blog (or RSS feed or e-mails or whatever I need to do) and learn even more from you.

Congratulations on your decision – I’m sure you’ll do great!

Debi (aka Pink)


Kerry February 1, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Debi—my gosh. I do remember, and I think those emails might date back to the Clinton administration. Hopefully I can come up with something a little more current soon!


Deli Kate February 1, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Welcome back. So happy to make you the top of my home page again.


Marian February 6, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Kerry – Debi told me about your blog so I’m going to start following you too. I’m not as into geneology, but I’ve started transcribing my mother’s diary from her year in Europe in the 50′s and I think that will lead me down a path. I’d like to be fearless like you and leave HR behind – you’re my hero.

Marian (aka “murn”)


Kerry February 7, 2010 at 6:56 am

Murn! Hi!

I’ll bet the diary hooks you. Every genealogy freak I know gets sucked in by something like that.


class factotum February 10, 2010 at 9:13 am

I don’t mind the Laverne and Shirley reference. My husband insisted on naming our cats Laverne and Shirley. He wanted them to have good Milwaukee names. I had suggested Miller and Harley but he liked L&S better and it’s not like cats come when you call anyhow so big deal. Except then it turns out that we do have a cat who comes when you call and it’s Laverne, which really, is not one of my favorite names, but oh well. I’ll drown my sorrows in Kopps.
.-= class factotum´s last blog ..Marriage 201, Lecture 397: I told you so =-.


Melissa February 10, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Welcome back! It will be fun to follow you on this journey. And if you want to blog about Kopp’s Frozen Custard (which is way better than ice cream IMHO), that would be awesome! It’s been too long since I’ve experienced it.
.-= Melissa´s last blog ..No Longer a Separation of Personal and Professional Lives? =-.


julie bruns February 12, 2010 at 4:09 pm


I haven’t been here in a bit but am so excited to see you pursue your dream! No matter what you blog about, it’s sure to be interesting and you will always share that Kerry humor that will make me laugh!

Good luck and I promise to visit more often!

Julie (aka JulieB :-) )


Amanda February 15, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Your sarcasm is to be revered; your tell-it-like-it-is-ness in enviable; and your humor is nothing short of fabulous. You somehow pull it all off at once. You are a complete and total badass. And, I have tears in my eyes reading this post.


Margaret August 14, 2010 at 1:06 am

I’m 26 years old (spring chicken, I know) and I’ve thought about going into genealogy professionally on and off since I was a teenager.

Husband and I are lining up the ducks to spawn and let me quit my job…and honestly? It think SAHM with a genealogy business?

Screw it, why not?


Mavis Jones January 1, 2011 at 12:14 am

I can so relate to this post except I’ve not given up the job, yet. But I can relate to the 10 year break away from doing research.


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