Breaking News: Scientists Pinpoint the Origins of Piles of Genea-Crap

Breaking News: Scientists Pinpoint the Origins of Piles of Genea-Crap

by Kerry Scott on 25 April 2011

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MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin—Scientists at Clue Wagon Worldwide Headquarters announced today that they have found a way to trace the origins of the mysterious piles of crap that appear on the desks of genealogists whenever they get near a computer.  “We’ve seen this play out time and time again,” said genealogist-ologist Dr. Pat Smith, who studies genealogists in their natural habitats.  “Genealogists sit down with every intention of doing good work, sticking to their research plans, and carefully entering information into their databases.  Then they get distracted, and three hours later, they’re buried in a pile of printouts and empty candy wrappers.  It’s a problem.”

Dr. Smith says he’s invented a device that tracks the actual thought patterns of a genealogist as she sits down to do research on the internet.  To demonstrate, he hooked the new device to an unnamed genealogist in Milwaukee.  Here’s a transcript of the actual thoughts in the genealogist’s brain as she sat down to enter some data into her database:


Okay, I’m totally going to enter stuff in my database.  Here is my pop.  Here is my box of Kleenex.  I’m ready to go.

Okay, here’s Luella Woolley.  Do I have her picture in there?  No?  Lemme go get that.  [open photo manager].  Oh, hey, look, there’s my kids.  Have I tagged those photos of them from our vacation yet?  Nope.  [tag tag tag]

No, wait, stop that.  Focus on Luella.  I’m entering Luella in the database.  Got her picture…uploaded.  Okay.  Let’s pull her folder from the file cabinet.  Hey, haven’t looked in here for a while.  There’s the name of the funeral home.  Did I write to them?  Do that now. [type type type]  Hey, did I check the newspaper since they added to the GenealogyBank collection?  [check check check].  Not there.  Maybe under first name?  Kid’s name?  Hey, what’s this interesting article?

Okay, no, focus on Luella.  I’m supposed to be entering her stuff into the database.  [enter enter enter]  Wait.  Have Luella and Albert been added to the Minnesota Marriage Index yet? [check check check] Not there.  Maybe this spelling?  [check check check] Maybe that spelling? [check check check]  Hey, I probably should be writing this down in my research log.  Where is that form? [shuffle shuffle shuffle]  Hey, this form is kinda sucky.  Should I remake the form?  Yes.  [type type type]

Wait, no, no remaking forms.  Focus.  Focus on entering stuff in the database.  Except…what if I search the marriage index for just her first name?  What will happen if I type just “Lu” or “Lou”?  [check check check]  It would help if I had her maiden name.  Can I find her in an early census?  When was she born?  Is that in the paper file?  [shuffle shuffle shuffle]  Okay, she was born in October 1883 according to the cemetery.  Let me check all the Luella’s born around then in the 1900 census.  [check check check] Hmmm.  None of these look like a direct hit.

Wait.  I have her in subesequent censuses.  Where were the parents born?  [shuffle shuffle shuffle]  No, none of these match.  Hey, is she on Find A Grave?   [check check check]  Oooo, look.  There she is…but there her birth date is listed in 1882.  Go back and check all of the Luellas in the 1900 census born in 1882.  [check check check]

Hey, I’m kinda hungry.  Any chocolate Easter candy left?  [pillage pillage pillage]  Holy cow.  Two chocolate bunnies.  The kids will never miss these.  [chomp chomp chomp]

Wait, no.  I’m supposed to be entering stuff in the database.  And I will, just as soon as I put stamp on the letter to the funeral home.  Where are the stamps?  [shuffle shuffle FREEZE]  HOLD THE PHONE.  Could they have gotten married in Washington State?  They lived there later.  Maybe they married there, came back to Minnesota, and then left again.  What sort of records would Washington State have online?  [google google google]

Hey, what’s this?  Washington Digital Archives?  HOLY COW!! PAYDIRT!!!  Print!  Print!  Print!!  Oh, and PRINT!!!  ADD PAPER!!  HOLY COW!!!  LOOK AT ALL THIS GOOD STUFF!!  PRRRRIIIINNNNTTTTT!!!


Dr. Smith reported that the genealogist in question spent three hours and 12 minutes on this.  At the end, she still hadn’t entered Luella Woolley’s information into her database, but she now had a big pile of stuff she had to sort through.  Additionally, she failed to start dinner on time, so her poor family had to eat the Mama-Got-Carried-Away-on-the-Internet Dinner (frozen pizza and breadsticks made from dough that comes in a pop-open can).

Dr. Smith’s next project will be to study the nutritional deficiencies of the children of genealogists.

Photo by striatic

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{ 77 comments… read them below or add one }

The gold digger April 30, 2011 at 2:53 pm

I was surprised and tickled to see your face in my Wisconsin Historical Society newsletter today! Well done!

PS We went to the museum in Madison last year. Admission is free for historical society members. When I told the clerk we were members, he told us to go on in. I asked if he wanted to see my card to be sure, he answered, “Oh honey. Nobody lies about being a member of the historical society.”


Kerry Scott May 2, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Thank you! I had fun with it, and my kids got a kick out of seeing my picture in print. They think I’m a celebrity. Like Elmo.

Nice to see you around here again!


Cheryl May 2, 2011 at 11:35 am

This is hysterical! I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one who can’t get anything entered in my database without spending hours looking at other ‘stuff’.


Beverly Cramer May 2, 2011 at 3:27 pm

This sounds so much like me I think someone has been spying on me!!!


Patti B. May 2, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Oh my….*furtive look*…..I thought I was the only one! Thank goodness! I can stop pretending now.

We need to form a GA (Genealogists Anonymous) group to curb this insane instinct. Ha!


Taneya May 6, 2011 at 7:36 pm

This is excellent and so funny! totally me… :-)


karen May 7, 2011 at 8:03 am

This is so true. Another good article to write -”the genealogy vacation”.


Anne Halford September 10, 2013 at 8:22 pm

We were on vacation, driving down a highway. I said, “Turn right at the next road.” My husband looked over at me and asked, “Who’s buried in that direction? I didn’t know we had relatives in this state.” How’d he know I wanted to go to a cemetery?


Kerry Scott September 12, 2013 at 2:35 pm

I think many of us have husbands who would have said that…I know mine would!


Jacquie May 15, 2011 at 12:04 pm

I’ve laughing to myself for weeks since reading this. This is sooo “spot on” and perfectly describes my genealogical habits and addictions which includes but is not limited to chocalate fixes while working on my genealogy.


Mike September 13, 2011 at 7:25 pm

The mystery woman is my wife. Her name is Anne and she is a lovely person if slightly easy to distract from the job at hand.


Judy Webster October 6, 2011 at 1:41 am

Another hysterically funny post. I especially liked “[pillage pillage pillage]“. Thanks!


Jacquie January 2, 2012 at 4:06 pm

So I saw that three of your blogs were voted the funniest by Tamura Jones. In fact you are the only one listed in this catagory. I know that you are busy with your new job (contratulations by the way) but just wanted to let you know that I, and probably hundreds of others, totally miss your blog.


Kerry Scott January 4, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Thank you so much! I’ve had a lot going on in the past few months, but I’m hoping to be back on schedule soon.


Kathy Robarts January 9, 2012 at 11:39 am

I was looking for my exercise tape that I had put on DVD…so I pull out 2 that were not marked with title……well those DVD’s were 4 hours of old family movies going back to when I was born that we had transferred….so needless to say my butt got a lot of sitting exercise while I watched…still no exercise tape yet.


CALI October 16, 2012 at 10:07 pm

I don’t know when I have laughed so hard! Good thing I was alone or someone would have called the straightjacket squad. This is sooooo me in every way!


Valerie Elkins September 9, 2013 at 6:00 pm

It’s like you’re inside my head! Thank you for the good laugh. Delightful as always my dear.


WENDY CALDWELL September 9, 2013 at 8:39 pm

OMG, crying with laughter…
Every genealogist relates to this. Every non genealogist would have this confused look on their face.
Thanks…loved it


Jana Last September 9, 2013 at 9:12 pm

LOL! This is awesome!


AndreaKelleher September 10, 2013 at 6:05 am

OMG I just about pee’ed my pants. LOL! Yes this is so totally me, especially the part about pillaging the kid’s candy. Too funny.


Kerry Scott September 12, 2013 at 2:39 pm

I’m glad to know I’m not the only candy-pillaging mom.


Norah September 10, 2013 at 11:55 am

And I thought I was the only one not getting anything done. Too, too funny and true.


brandy September 12, 2013 at 7:04 am

Omg, this was so hilarious that I had to read it out loud to my daughter. She was laughing as I read it and when I was done she said. “Mom that is so you, so you are normal??!!!!”…lol. Thanks for the laugh


Kerry Scott September 12, 2013 at 2:34 pm

You are normal. I’ve been a genealogist longer than I’ve had kids, so my kids think all sorts of weird things are normal. Trip to a cemetery? Sure! Retreating to 1870 after a long day? Of course! It’ll be interesting when they get a bit older and realize that other people don’t do this stuff.


Jana Last September 13, 2013 at 8:45 am


I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today’s Fab Finds post at

Have a wonderful day!


Kerry Scott September 14, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Thanks Jana!


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