Where are we going?

by | Oct 21, 2002 | Genealogy

I can see clearly now the rain has gone
All of the dark clouds have disappeared
Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for
It’s going to be a bright, bright sun-shiny day.
There’s a point in everyone’s life when they take stock of where they’ve been and where they are heading. This summer culminated such a time for me. Family milestones included golden wedding anniversaries, graduations, birthdays, two family reunions, and ended by saying goodbye to my parents who moved back to their childhood home in Michigan. Each of these events–combined with a good health prognosis after a life-threatening illness–had a profound impact on me and gave me pause to reconsider my priorities.
This fall, I plan to examine my participation in the Heycuz Newsgroup and as webmaster of the Game of Lifes.
You, the members of Heycuz, and I work so hard and sometimes the results hardly seem worth it. It’s in my nature to sacrifice, but I’m depleting resources faster than my rate of return. At some point, I have to face this hobby and say, “Where are we going and where do we want to go?”
One way I’ve looked at my life is to say to myself, “If you didn’t HAVE to do this, would you still CHOOSE to do it?” In the end, I have to say that I probably get more enjoyment and fulfillment out of this website and newsgroup than anyone else. I love to do it and hope to continue with it for years to come.
So what’s the problem(s)?
Nice of you to ask…These crises aren’t new. I just never really dealt with them until now. Anyone who knows me knows that I avoid conflicts at all costs. Maybe they’re perennial issues that require creative solutions each time. I’m open to suggestions. There are too many to list but a few of them are:
Between emails, research requests, updating this site, and then doing all the things a personal life requires, I don’t have any time. I don’t seem to make as much research trips to the library as I used to and, until I get back to the library, I won’t get over my brick walls. I’ve even contemplated getting an Ouiji board to find answers. Oh great spirits, tell me who are the parents of Owen Sullivan or Nancy Elizabeth Thorn Harrison Partain or Hezekiah Bryant?; What happened to Virinda Estes Cornell Grant?; Where’s the proof that Ezekiel Dye is really my ggg-great-grandfather?; and Where do I belong on this family tree? It’d be funny if I wasn’t so deftly afraid of Ouiji boards.
I’m sure many of you can identify with this problem. The stacks of papers have taken over my house and I can’t find anything. I thought about putting all my notes into a workable online database to cut down on search requests and probably find the answers to some of my questions because I had the documents all along. However, that opens up more opportunities for the unethical researchers. Perhaps I’ll just put everything on a CD for quick access. But, then, that goes back to the issue of time. I did finally manage to create an index for the Share the Wealth section.
I have always shared my information and received great enjoyment hearing from new cousins. After being burned by a former member of Heycuz who took the entire database and republished it on various websites, there’s a wave of nausea that hits me when I’m asked to send someone a gedcom. At the same time, I’m thankful that members of Heycuz and others would share with me. That event however, opened up my eyes and when I searched online, I found my notes, un-attributed, on website after website. I also learned that this was a growing problem plaguing many researchers that has led to an atmosphere of withholding of information. What’s so hard about listing your sources and protecting the living?
The Game of Lifes and the Heycuz newsgroup are both given to us free of charge in exchange for advertisements on our site. The amount of pop-up ads, banner ads, and junk mail, has tripled since rootsweb merged with Ancestry.com’s parent company MyFamily.com. I have been asked several times why there are so many ads, and let me assure you that I have nothing to do with the advertisements nor do I make money off of these ads. It would also be easier if Heycuz members could make immediate changes to their Ancestor’s individual pages instead of going through me. However, the server does not give me this option. So, until we win the lottery and can buy our own server, we’re going to have to make due regardless of what we think about their advertising practices. Right now, because of the unlimited amount of space we are allowed, this is the best place that we can afford.
The Good News
Recent activities in Congress show that they recognize the growing concern of content theft. Whether you’re a proponent of government intervention or not, at least the discussion of the growing problem will bring it out in the open. If genealogists see that they might lose access to this information, maybe they might think twice about infringing on copyrights and ignoring privacy issues. Indeed, we have already lost access to some public records in California, Oklahoma, and other places, spurred by concerns over identity theft. The current bill by Senator Hollings, which is stuck in committee, would force computer hardware and software manufacturers to prevent violations of copyright. It would work something like the way your VCR does now. You can’t make another tape of something that had a copy protection flag on it. Try it and you’ll see what I mean. There are little flags written on a video (and DVD) so that when a recorder/player hits the flag, a notice comes up that there’s a copyright present and you cannot record another copy. All copyrighted Internet content would be affected in Hollings bill and he’s getting the support of the big guns, the Entertainment Industry. Whether you agree with what is deemed copyrightable* or not, if there is a copyright “flag” on a website your own computer will prevent you from making a copy of that information.
*The number of genealogists who do not understand the concept of copyright is appalling. Take a stroll over to the reference desk while you’re in the library and look it up or, if you prefer to surf, search “copyright” on google.com. Citing the old standby “you can’t copyright facts” web site visitors cut-and-paste whole genealogies without recognition that the author’s comments, summaries, stories, layout and notes are not “facts.” Once something is in a gedcom, they assume its all facts. But if you take a book such as “The Stand” by Steven King and put it a gedcom and then send the gedcom to others, you have violated King’s copyright.
A few bad seeds don’t spoil the pot, as the saying goes, and I’ve been pleased to find that the number of people who share and research responsibly far outweigh the few who would spoil it for everyone. Do we really want Congress to come in and tell us what we can have on our own computers? It just might happen unless we turn the tide around and reduce the number of copyright violations.
Family Reunion
The Family Reunions that were held in August sparked a renewed interest in my own Family History. I have filled my journal with thoughts that I came away with and collected many old and new photographs and memorabilia on our families. I still have to add pictures to The Family Album.The first celebration included the descendants of my grandmother Ruby (Harrison) Rennie who was celebrating her 90th birthday. The next day featured the Reunion of the Sullivans and Heaths. I saw so many cousins and family members–some I hadn’t seen in over thirty years and some I’d never met.
I realized the cost I had paid by not growing up near my extended family. I was also impressed with what absolutely remarkable people they were. Most interesting to me was seeing my “likeness” in others. I don’t mean whether our noses looked the same, though there was some of that. I mean the underlying resemblance such as the way someone told a joke, laughed, lived his or her beliefs, and even cooked. It’s difficult to explain but it struck me as interesting to see someone I had never met whose actions were very much like reflections of myself. As I sat at each gathering there was no mistaking who was family and who were spouses.
I also was inspired by the characteristics of family members that I’d most like to emulate. First was my Aunt Kittie, an incredibly gracious hostess who opened her home to my family and took us everywhere we asked without hesitation or sleep. I was also impressed with her spirituality and her willingness to share these intimate feelings. Then, there was my Aunt Jo, who welcomed me to her beautiful house that displayed her incredible artistic talent. But, what struck me most important was her positive outlook. She had something good to say about everyone and never said a bad word about anyone and she seemed to do it without appearing like a “Pollyanna.” Then there was my Aunt Wanda, who with her husband, Jake, dropped everything at a moment’s notice to come miles out of her way just to spend a few minutes with me and my son. I have always been impressed with her nurturing ways, but her willingness to do that made me realize how important we were to her. I also had the opportunity to interview both my grandparents–Glen Sullivan Heath and Ruby Harrison Rennie–and recorded it to revisit over and over. What a treasure that was and will be for years to come. I was most impressed by their openness and willingness to tell the truth about their lives, their decisions–good and bad–and their deep love for all of their “children”–good and bad. Those were just some of the impressions that I came away with but I realized how much my Family was a part of me and, with all their quirks, gifts, mannerisms, and likenesses, I realized I liked my family and am very proud of them.
The final event this summer was to bid farewell to my parents who decided to leave their California home of 30-plus years and return to the place where they grew up.

Before they left, I toured the old house as memories of good and bad times haunted it. Every Christmas morning, each birthday wish, the cuts and scrapes, the death of my oldest brother ran through those hallowed walls and my mind. Feelings of abandonment as the only remaining Heath in California had me asking, “Who will be my family now?” But remembering the concerns of a crime-infested neighborhood and thinking ahead to the loving family that I’ll soon marry into gave way to feelings of relief and opportunities for a better life for them and me.

So, as the first event of the Holiday Season —Halloween–approaches, I look back at this summer with a clean grasp of where I’ve come from and with a feeling of hope and opportunity for the future. I don’t know what it holds in store for me, but I do know that everything’s going to be OK.

  1. April
  2. Heycuz, What’s New?: October 2002