Genealogy is a wonderful pastime and profession, and it can become a grand passion for many who are involved in it. However, even the most passionate of genealogists can become burned out or lose motivation. This usually happens if too many hours a day are spent doing nothing but genealogy, or if one stands too long in front of a brick wall. If this happens to you, don’t be concerned. It happens to the best genealogists. All you have to do is get re-motivated, and it is easier than it sounds. Here are some vibrant tips on staying motivated with your genealogy research.
First, decide why you are feeling burned out or unmotivated. It can be a simple fix if the reason is simple. You probably already know why you are feeling this way, but if you do not, give it some thought. It will come to you, usually easily. For example, are you mentally or physically burned out? Usually, it is mentally, but you can become physically burned out by too many hours sitting in front of the computer. Sitting in itself can be exhausting, so it is important to get up periodically and exercise or walk around. Spend a few minutes, or however long you need to, doing something different. You can also get physically burned out by looking at the computer screen for too long. It can hurt your eyes, make them dry and uncomfortable, or watery and sore. Try adding a glare protector to your computer screen to protect your eyes, or take periodic screen breaks. This will keep you physically feeling good, and motivated to continue doing your genealogy research.
If it is a mental type of burn out, decide what is causing it. Is it too much research? Reading too many family histories? Figuring out complex cousin relationships, or working out how many neighbors your ancestor had and how they may be connected to each other? Or, have you been trying to get past the same brick wall for a long time, without working on any of your other family lines? Each of these common causes of mental genealogy burnout has simple fixes of their own.
Often, simply getting more organized is key to overcoming genealogical burnout and staying motivated. Creating a timeline for brick wall ancestors is a helpful method. With a timeline of all of the important events in that ancestor’s life, you will have a clear picture in front of you of what additional information you need, and what sources you need to consult to find it. Looking at a timeline may also give you additional ideas of different approaches you can take to your research, things you may not have thought of without your ancestor’s life laid out in front of you on a timeline. Timelines can actually be real creativity boosters.
You can also take a different approach to your research. Instead of focusing on one particular ancestor you may be having trouble with, shift your research focus to those around him or her. Research their children, extended relatives, neighbors, business associates, church members, soldiers they served with, and anyone else with whom you know they had a personal connection. If the trail has run dry on your brick wall ancestor, researching the people who knew them can often provide clues. Sometimes, you will even get direct clues, such as mentions of your brick wall ancestor in the wills or land deeds of other people (tax records, marriage records, church membership rolls, and other similar things can also give you important clues on your brick wall ancestor). Once you get past a brick wall or get any clue that gets you closer to getting past it, you will usually become reinvigorated in your genealogical research, and your motivation returns, as healthy as ever.
Get a little help from your friends. Believe it or not, this is an excellent way of keeping up your genealogical motivation. This means putting out inquiries about your family line or brick wall ancestor on genealogy message boards, and even social media. Look for groups on social media that are researching your family line or the area where your family line lived. Join those groups and ask for the information you need. You never know who is out there who has the exact information you’ve been searching for because it was handed down to them and has never been in a record repository. The more people you ask, the greater chance there is of you finding what you need.
A marriage record burned in a courthouse fire? There may be a distant cousin somewhere who inherited the original. The same thing goes for photos of ancestors; if they didn’t come down your branch of the family tree, asking online can find the branch who got it, which can get you a copy of it. Getting new information this way is incredibly fun and motivating. Plus, you get to meet new relatives.
Take a break. Sometimes, you just need to step away for a little while. You have been concentrating on one genealogical issue for so long, you can’t look at it clearly anymore, and you just keep going in circles with your research. Stepping away for a while and doing something completely different can give you the clarity you need to look at the issue with a whole new set of eyes when you return to it. Once you give yourself the space you need to make new discoveries, your motivation will return. You may even think of new research avenues to explore while you are taking your break, which will make you eager to return to your research.
Genealogical burnout is not uncommon, especially for people who do a lot of it. If you spend most of your time doing genealogy, you might experience burnout, which comes with a lack of motivation. Don’t be concerned. Your motivation will come back, and likely some amazing discoveries along with it. All you need to do is give yourself the space you need to be your best as a genealogist.