Dump the Genie out of the Bucket

(I don't know what that post title means. Cross genealogy off of your bucket list? Sometimes I just like the sound of something and figure we can assign meaning as we see fit. Aren't there entire forms of literary criticism based on that? And criticism of that criticism, but anyway...)

Ancestry.com has the 1930 census available for free until until Monday night. I suspect they're creating a bit of buzz in anticipation of the 1940 census, which will be released to the public in 45 days. I remember when 1930 came out - it seemed like this day was forever away. In fact, I remember waiting the seven years after I started research for 1930 to come out, and that also felt like forever. How amazing to have lived through so many eternities!

The census data is always kept private for 72 years, which I suppose implies that if you're still alive when a census with you on it is released, you've either lived your share or society no longer cares about your privacy as you'll be gone soon anyway. Rather icky either way. But, I console myself that all of my grandparents were still alive when their first census was released, and hopefully my grandmothers will still be here in 45 days. I wonder if they'll lengthen the waiting period for future generations, especially those for whom "privacy policy" is an everyday phrase, those who never knew what it was like to have to pay extra to have an unlisted number.

(Is that still the case? I haven't had a land line for seven years.)

Of course I will have to reactivate my Ancestry subscription in six weeks, even though it's probably impossible for the 1940 census to assist with any of my brick walls. (I fervently hope I end up eating those words, of course!) I wonder if the price will go up with the new census? Hmmm.

With a lot of down time for allergies and possibly another cold (which would make it the third in four weeks, so let's hope not), I've been spending more time in front of the computer, although not so much with the genealogy - it's day will come again soon enough. Instead, I've been refreshing my Irish on Rosetta Stone (a generous gift - I could never have justified the cost myself), upping my game significantly in Photoshop (speaking of expensive gifts) through some excellent podcasts that are also available on Youtube (where, unlike in iTunes, you can start from the very beginning), dreaming big on Pinterest, and even using Pinterest as a research tool for a few projects.

One of those projects is an idea I have for making a wall-size family tree. But, instead of names (although these could be added later), I want to use postcards of the area the family members are from. And instead of a family tree, I've started thinking about doing something more like an ancestral geographical timeline.

So, I've started making a spreadsheet - one column per decade. Then I look through my family tree and figure out where all of my ancestors were in or near a given year. (If someone moves to, say, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, in 1851, I'm not going to wait until the 1860 spot to put up a Sheboygan postcard, especially if they've moved by 1859. Judgement calls will be made.)

Right now I'm still in the organizing-via-spreadsheet stage. One thing about my family, and probably a lot of other American families west of the Mississippi, is that we have tended to be on the scoot. At no point can I seem to say, "Oh yes, and in this town the so-and-sos lived for three generations." Three generations in the same town? I'm happy to get two generations in the same state! Wandering feet - I was born with 'em.

The next phase will be the fun part: skulking around eBay, finding the perfect postcards to represent these locations. For some I can try to find postcards from around the same time, but "pretty, cheap, and geographically relevant" are all far more important. I'm sure it will take ages to collect them all. (One thing I might insist on is that they're postally used. I already collect both stamps and used postcards, so this fits that.)

When I have all of the cards, I'll have to come up with a wall design that will display them in an attractive way while allowing the viewer to start at the modern end and work backwards. Overlapping will be inevitable, but there must also be room to add more cards as research (hopefully) continues. I suppose there will be a bubble-bulge shape, with only a few cards on the modern end (2010 = one postcard for Las Vegas for Mike and me, and one postcard for Fort Worth for my parents and grandmothers), then many more cards as all the branches of my family AND Mike's are considered and keep doubling (or should we do two walls, one for each of us, and have all our cards meet at the connecting corner? oooo!), but then fewer cards again as those dead ends in research start presenting themselves.

I have no idea how this can be stylishly done, but I'm sure collecting the cards will be interesting and informative enough in its own right if the display doesn't pan out. (I've always been better at ideas than execution when it comes to crafty stuff.)

So, to this end, I also have a Pinterest board going with pretty photos of places my ancestors lived. I know it's not my culture, but I like to get a feel of where I'm coming from. Joyce Carol Oates would argue that it's one way to know where you're going to.

(Okay, that was just a cheap excuse to link to the story. But does anyone else remember watching the very racy Smooth Talk - with Laura Dern, and based on this story - on PBS in the mid-80s? I never liked Treat Williams the actor after that.)

I realize that spending paragraphs explaining a craft idea without a single durn photo is not how we do things in 2012, so if anyone actually made it through all of those paragraphs, I encourage you to make a postcard timeline and then come back here and brag about it. Will you be full-on linear or perhaps incorporate a swirl? Or maybe work up and down vertically in lines, like a paint roller? Look for mine on Pinterest - hopefully before the 1950 census is released.

17 February 2012 |






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