“But I can’t”, I explained. “GSQ’s blog has only just really begun and I should continue with posts that focus on the Society’s collection of family tree charts”. “But you should”, I was told and eventually I was convinced. Let me set the scene.
GSQ is open on Wednesdays between 6 and 9pm twice each month and recently, with night falling outside the East Brisbane Resource Centre, a small group of dedicated family historians gathered to progress their research. We talked about our research, how to overcome our brickwalls and then about the Geneapalooza blog. http://geneapalooza.blogspot.com.au/ Wonderful cartoon strips, well drawn, that touch on key issues facing genealogists today, in a light, humorous way. Well this started us giggling a little. OK, a lot! Then the conversation took a seemingly innocuous turn. Had any of us read, we were asked, “The Zen of Genealogy The Lighter Side of Genealogy” by Beth Maltbie Uyehara? “Oh, you must!” we were told when we confessed our genealogical sin of omission.
Now GSQ has an onsite bookshop and in the bookshop just happened to be a copy of this very book. At this point it is fair to say that all thoughts of progressing our research were forgotten. “Read the chapter with the Ten Commandments of Genealogy”, I was urged and so, with great flair and aplomb and much waving of my hands, I did. Now, the whole book at 125 pages can be read in one sitting, but the chapters are topical and short enough you can dip into them at leisure, based on your choice of subject. Well, dip in we did!
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The ‘Ten Commandments’, outlined in chapter 16, are genealogical truths that family historians surely have heard and incorporated into their research methodology. As I started to render my quite vocal and physically demonstrative interpretation of commandment number one, ‘Thou shalt start with thyself and work backwards’, we all found ourselves relating to, and laughing about, the scrapes into which the author got herself. At this point I admitted to the assembled ‘throng’ that I just couldn’t read this book on the bus going to work. Shaking shoulders, titters and giggles out loud, do not happy fellow passengers make! Another member advised that the book really shouldn’t be read while in bed lying next to a sleeping partner! By the time I had discovered chapter 9, “Cousins by the Dozen”, and learned about the formulae for calculating degrees of kinship and that a First Degree Cousin is one that holds a black belt, there were chortles and chuckles, howls and thigh slapping fits of laughter. I felt sorry, just for a moment, for the neighbours just outside the Resource Centre’s front door, trying to lead their after work lives, while being subject to the guffaws echoing from within our genealogical walls.
I found all this so incredibly funny that I shared it with my mother after I went home. I read the whole “Cousins” chapter with as much dramatic effect as I had to my fellow family historians just a short time before. Mum’s face remained without expression, her only response when I finished, “Was that supposed to be funny?” Sigh! I found myself relating so very much to Beth’s lamentations concerning her non-genie husband. While they may be supportive, they’ll never quite understand the passion that drives us, nor the desire to convert a bedroom, garage or study into a purpose built genealogical haven or using precious holiday time to trawl through cemeteries, libraries or archives.
Also covering topics such as tips for actually fascinating your friends and relatives when regaling them with your family history finds, awarding gold medals for various categories in the Genealogical Olympics and how to seek support for the condition known as geneaholicism, this book is full of laughs from start to finish. I won’t soon forget, though, the author’s impassioned plea in the final chapter for family historians to be the sorts of ancestors we wish ours had been. Well supported by Lois Jesek’s delightfully whimsical illustrations, the language is easy to read, witty and pithy. Beth takes genealogy seriously, but gently uncovers and sees the humour in genealogists, intriguing and funny lot that we are. What makes this book such an enjoyable read, and different from other family history tomes, is her light, easy treatment of the subject. If your genealogical funny bone needs a tickle, read “The Zen of Genealogy”. I trust you will enjoy it as much as we did.