Saturday, May 7, 2016
Field Notes: Hindsight, Old Notes and Jumping the Gun
Hindsight is 20/20.
If it was a snake it would have bit me.
Well thanks, Captain Obvious!
Guess I jumped the gun on that one.
While gathering all my research notes in preparation for my Finding Faulkner series, I realized something. The answers had been there all along. Hiding in plain sight. Like Dorothy, I had always had the answer I was looking for, but I had not taken the journey of discovery, yet.
It was the reconstruction that illuminated this.
I had been searching for my elusive, nay mythical 5th great grandfather. When I began the quest, still wet behind the ears, in late 2007 I had very few facts but a lot of supposition and tenacity. Perhaps too much tenacity. And a very myopic research focus.
The battle (it often felt like a battle) waged on for nearly nine years. Nine long, hard, confusing years. I, apparently, took the scenic route .... on a tricycle .... with one wheel missing.
But I arrived. Triumphant. I could prove, after a reasonably exhaustive search (you ain't kidding!), who this unicorn was.
When I sat down to retell the tale I pulled out all the material I had gathered over the years. The reconstruction proved difficult. So much had transpired, most of it in nonsensical order. But that forced me to lay everything out and look at it, afresh with wisened eyes. The answer I had been seeking had been handed to me very early on, I had had it with me for the entire journey. The last piece of the puzzle.
But it required the entire journey to get it to fit together. Having the last piece without all the pieces in between did me no good.
The takeaway from this? Do your work. Don't give up. Relook at your early notes as you go along - there might be a clue you overlooked previously. Start with what you know and build on that. Having the roof does no good if there is no structure to lay it upon.
Would I have concluded my journey sooner had I worked more logically? Perhaps. I would certainly have had a more robust profile of each generation, gaining me the ability to cast a broader search net.