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:

[BEGIN TRANSCRIPT]

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!!!

[END TRANSCRIPT]

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 }

Caroline Pointer April 25, 2011 at 10:31 am

Dr. Smith would have a heyday at analyzing my kids’ nutritional deficiencies due to my genealogical tangents. Not to mention my stacks all around my computer.

Too funny. And true. Which is why it’s beyond funny. ;)

~C

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Perry Iverson April 25, 2011 at 10:39 am

Hilarious! That is totally me. Only instead of a pile of papers on my desk, my “needs to be sorted” folder on my computer grows, and grows, and grows. It’s so hard to be focused on entering and sorting old info. Is there a support group for scatter-brained genealogists I can join somewhere?

Thanks for the laugh.

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Rosemary April 25, 2011 at 10:41 am

Been there, done that, have the T-shirt (grubby with chocolate stains).

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Randy Seaver April 25, 2011 at 10:44 am

Okay, how did you know that this is my genea-manic-ology too?

I love stream-of-consciousness stuff, but mine would be much more haphazard, and perhaps obscene, than yours. No swearing? No checking email and Facebook?

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kristin April 25, 2011 at 10:49 am

at least she concentrated on Luella throughout. I’d be researching her next door neighbor or her second cousin by the time I got to the end.

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Michele May 10, 2011 at 6:33 pm

I do next-door neighbors too! That’s a hoot!

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Debbie McCoy April 25, 2011 at 10:59 am

LOL!! I can so relate!

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GrannyPam April 25, 2011 at 11:01 am

Every comment is relevant, and I might get side tracked, too. Wait, the original article is a gem. My piles develop this same way, however, I would have changed people several times, just like Kristin.

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Diana Ritchie April 25, 2011 at 11:04 am

Note to self – Must not read Clue Wagon at work, even on lunch break as maniacal laughter tends to reinforce peoples’ opinions of my sanity (or lack thereof)

And I second what Randy and Kristin have said…mine would have included checking fb, swearing AND researching totally random other people.

Thanks for a great laugh on a Monday :-)

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Jeri April 25, 2011 at 11:07 am

Awesome! Thanks for such a wonderful post. I started my day making sure some notes were added to a family group sheet and after a few searches sidetracked me I did end up finding my GGG-grandparents death dates, so some days the side tracks are worth it.

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Leslie Ann April 25, 2011 at 11:12 am

Okay. That is spooky. Does this Dr. Smith have hidden cameras in my house? Wait a minute, I am supposed to be updating a Geni profile. How did I get here?

-Love it Kerry! Entertaining as usual!-

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Susan Tiner April 25, 2011 at 11:18 am

I’m going to tell your kids about those chocolate bunnies.

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Jen Holik-Urbana April 25, 2011 at 11:19 am

Love it! I can so relate to this post, especially the kids eating a non-nutritious dinner (and sometimes lunch).

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Aylarja April 25, 2011 at 11:28 am

I smell the need for a support group to aid mentally disorganized genealogists – and the identification of a syndrome with a catchy name to explain it all. Just because so many of us suffer from it doesn’t make it “normal”, does it? :)

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Nikki LaRue April 25, 2011 at 11:43 am

Wow, so I’m not alone! Just one pile though? Oh no! I have one official pile, one of those desktop hard file boxes, a little bit of room between that and the computer monitor specifically for more papers, and one smaller little hard file box on the other side of the monitor. And don’t forget the little space between the front of the monitor and the keyboard. And all of this is for “works-in-progress”. No, I can’t put it all away because I’m still using it, all of it! And of course there’s the designated area for my pop and a couple donut holes. This also doesn’t include the various other piles around the house; by the bed and by the coffee table too! :)

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Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith April 25, 2011 at 11:45 am

Wonderful! ‘nough said… ;-)

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Caron April 25, 2011 at 11:45 am

So I am thinking the name(s) were changed to protect the innocent (me)! Like looking in the mirror! Thanks for the laughs! [My 'to file" folder" is now in 2 banker boxes!]

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Ruth Blair April 25, 2011 at 12:18 pm

This is absolutely priceless. How right you are hehe

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P Kristine Hurd April 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm

My goodness, I guess I can just quit beating myself up here! This must be the way ALL genealogist are! Maybe we should add this to the qualifications of a becoming a genealogist. Sure would be better than all the guilt I feel every time I look around me and see piles and piles of papers! We would all feel better if we were suppose to working like this ~laughs~

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Louis Kessler April 25, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Where did you get that great picture? From your desk or mine?

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JL April 25, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Hilarious. At my house, the thought of Luella, interesting as I’m sure she is, wouldn’t have survived even a minute. Luella who? When was that? What line does she belong to? Good thing these people are dead so they’re not going anywhere. Her paperwork might come back around next year, the year after …

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Kenneth W. Spangler April 25, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Excellent! I do this all the time. Being as I liked Blackie Sherrod so much growing up I just call it “scattershooting”. That seems to be the only way I do genealogy!

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Michelle Goodrum April 25, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Now if Dr. Smith could just find a cure now that he has studied the problem…

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Margaret Crymes April 25, 2011 at 1:22 pm

How did I not know about the Washington Digital Archives? Thanks to you, I just picked up FREE marriage licenses for my husband’s parents, grandparents, and a bunch of aunts and uncles besides!

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Margaret Crymes April 25, 2011 at 1:23 pm

I meant grandparents and great-grandparents.

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Jo Graham April 25, 2011 at 1:28 pm

How very reassuring to know that we are the same the world over :-) Jo

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Debi April 25, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Hysterical! Even though I’ve only been at this a short time, I can already relate to this. And not only do I have stuff all over my desk but I’ve already got some boxes started in the storage area. And wouldn’t you know you’d score in WASHINGTON ;-)

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Tina Lyons April 25, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Love it! Thanks for another laugh, Kerry.

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Mary Beth April 25, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I’m new to this blog, and new to genealogy, but not new to this process. Researching my family, however, has exacerbated the problem ten-fold. Paper, paper everywhere, and not a page that’s complete !! I have folders, redwells, boxes, index cards, Footnote pages, Ancestry pages, Google pages, books for dummies, books for genealogists, magazines, magazine holders, hanging folders, standing folders, spiral notebooks, three-ring binders … and I need it all right here, right now. Not to mention the fact that whatever discovery I just made online is so much more interesting than the project I started working on an hour ago. You spyin’ on me, Kerry ???

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TK April 25, 2011 at 4:36 pm

In other circles, they call this ADD… ROFL!!

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Phyllis April 25, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Wonderful! Gave it to DH to read and he got distracted and followed all the links! How appropriate was that?

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Greta Koehl April 25, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Simply brilliant. Still, the “research subject” is still disciplined enough to keep returning to Luella. I always seem to end up looking up info on a family far, far removed from the person I am supposed to be entering data for. God took pity on my children by keeping me from discovering genealogy until they were sorta able to feed, clean, and clothe themselves.

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Jennifer Shoer April 25, 2011 at 8:14 pm

You kill me!

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Jenny Lanctot April 25, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Kid? Oh yeah, her. Oops. Mine went and became an adult. Must have missed that one. Oh well, she can feed herself now. What was I doing again? Oh yeah, transferring all my data from one management program to another, while simultaneously searching census records, military records, BMD records, for people I haven’t even put in there yet. I can truly relate!

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BDM April 25, 2011 at 10:12 pm

That was so perfect it’s scary. LOL

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Ros Dunstall April 26, 2011 at 6:27 am

This problem is obviously not centred in the US as I have this problem in Aust. I also
know many others with this affliction, I wonder if we can cure it. In my case it has not improved in nearly 15 yrs as I keep finding new people to search for and add to the next box of records…..

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Daniel Hoffman April 26, 2011 at 6:33 am

This is the first posting I have received after subscribing to Clue Wagon. Now I see that I have subscribed to the right blog for me . . . for once, I laughed at a genealogical posting, most of which are pedantic, stuffy, dusty . . . and, underneath the laughter was a recognition of me as having worked pretty much the same way in 3 hrs and 12 minutes of trying to get my stuff in the databse. Sometimes I think that I suffer from a kind of genealogical attention deficit disorder that does not surface in other realms of my life. Thanks for this refreshing posting!

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Elizabeth April 26, 2011 at 8:17 am

I’m glad I’m not alone in this “problem.” Thank you for the laugh. Now I really should do my vacuuming and stop reading all my genealogy blogs ;-)

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Yvonne April 26, 2011 at 9:24 am

You won’t believe this, but this morning I walked into my office and realized that for the first time in his life, my husband, Rus, was right…it looks like a paper bomb has gone off in here :).

You are a nut!

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Cheryle Hoover Davis April 26, 2011 at 9:53 am

This was soooo fun to read and I….oh. wait. Got anymore of those chocolate bunnies? (beg beg beg)

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Candi April 26, 2011 at 3:31 pm

What’s worse is when I do a good job, but forgot that I did a good job… so I go through my dozens of digital newspaper clippings and think I need to upload them to the profiles on ancestry.com, only to figure out that I already did. :)

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JessB April 27, 2011 at 12:36 am

This works for students too.

Love you Kerry, this was a perfect pick-me-up to get me through the rest of my afternoon.

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Carole April 27, 2011 at 5:41 am

Brilliant and so so true. I have the paper files & the electronic “To Sort” files!!

Although I have just had to email the page link around the office to explain why I nearly spat my tea over the computer screen!

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Cherie Cayemberg April 27, 2011 at 8:01 am

You gave me a good laugh! Great post! Glad I’m not the only one!

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Jim's Girl April 27, 2011 at 8:06 pm

I obsevered the same phenomenon here this evening. Is there a cure for genea-crap? It’s taking over my dining room.

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Fran April 28, 2011 at 8:03 am

ROTFL I missed this yesterday, but it was funnier for me this morning since I had just spent last night in the same motion. Great way with words.

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Brandt Gibson April 28, 2011 at 11:12 am

It’s funny cuz it’s true! :) I found myself doing the exact same thing last night – I entered data from two files into my database, and dug up 12 more that are now in my “stuff to file” folder. I think we need to hire personal assistants that do nothing but data entry for us!

I also have to thank you for pointing me to the WA digital archives as well. I found a LOT of stuff there!

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Eve B Mayes April 28, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Yep, I think we’re ALL kin somehow! And how did she know about _MY_ office???? Bless my poor hubby for being so patient!

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Jennifer April 28, 2011 at 10:28 pm

Hilarious!!

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Joan Miller (Luxegen) April 29, 2011 at 9:23 am

So funny! I see a new career you can take on the road: Genea-Standup! (except those kiddies might have to eat more pizza).

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Liz Tapley-Matthews April 29, 2011 at 11:32 pm

LOLOL!! I love it! Though I am concerned that Dr Smith threw in the towel because he offers no recovery plan!!! He can tell it’s hopeless! GREAT post!

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