My two main interests/hobbies right now are ‘writing fiction’ and ‘working on my genealogy’, two very different tasks, almost opposite in many regards.

When I’m writing fiction, I’m creating characters, settings, themes, and plots from my imagination  I get to let my creative brain take the driver’s seat. That doesn’t mean everything is made up, though. I also have to let the researcher in me take the passenger seat because researching allows me to incorporate accurate details which give my stories more depth and root them in the real world, so to speak. But mainly, writing fiction is fun and creative and imaginative.

Genealogy work in a way is the opposite of writing fiction. The researcher in me takes the driver’s seat. It’s hard work because it’s sometimes impossible to find the information you need for creating a family tree document. In researching my genealogy, I’m not creating characters and settings; instead, I’m searching for information about real people and the places where they lived. I’m searching for their stories, too. Finding proof of the information I’m putting into my family tree document is important. Proof can be found in baptism records, birth certificates, census data, marriage records, etc. I’m creating a tree with a main trunk, branches and leaves sticking out all over the place, and including not only direct ancestors but also their siblings and their siblings’ spouses and children.

What I find interesting is that during this genealogy research, my imagination is churning. The more I learn about my ancestors—their names, birth dates, parents’ names, siblings’ names, birth place, grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc.—the more I begin to picture them and their homes, their lifestyles, etc. As I said in the previous paragraph, I’m even including non-related people in my family tree, because their lives were connected to my ancestors. In a way, I can think of them as the extras—the people who perhaps were minor characters in the lives of my ancestors and who might have created subplots in their stories.

I’ve discovered that a few of my ancestors were captains of ships in England a couple centuries ago and perished in shipwrecks. I’ve read that one potential ancestor was imprisoned in a concentration camp and died there. I found out that a few of my ancestors died in battle during WWII in Russia. Some of my ancestors had babies who were stillborn. Some had large families that stayed in small villages within the same general area for at least a couple of centuries, moving only short distances to other small villages. It’s quite possible that in some of these villages almost everyone was related in some way or another. Other ancestors immigrated to other countries or moved to other states within the same country. It’s reported that one of my ancestors was a prince and a few were counts or countesses. At least a couple of my ancestors were veterans of the American Revolution. After discovering all of this information, my creative brain wants to grab the control from the researcher in the driver’s seat.

Perhaps there is the spark of a new novel in there somewhere. We shall see. Maybe now you can see that writing fiction and researching genealogy might not be as opposite as they appear.