Saturday, July 26, 2008

This Here Journey

With this being my 299th post here (I've already written #300 which will appear tomorrow and deals with how our lives and the lives of our ancestors are affected by technology), I think it is high time I "check in" and summarize what this blog is about.

The Road

Destination: Austin Family began as a travel diary of various journeys taken, and perhaps roads not taken, in searching for my family roots. While this blog first started as an outlet, a way of dealing with the frustration and sorrow of my mother's early onset Alzheimer's Disease at age 58, it has grown to be much, much more. I thought that part of tracing my family history would be to not only gather details from living relatives before those morsels were lost to impaired memory, but also to keep my mind active and busy and somehow stave off an ailment which I know can be genetic among 15% of families with an Alzheimer's sufferer.

The family surnames I research or seek out on this journey are many, but most prominent are MacEntee, McEntee, Austin, McGinnis or McGinnes, Putman, Henneberg, and McCrickert.

The Map

I was luckier than most budding genealogists in that back in 1995 my mother handed me a copy of David Putman and His Descendants privately printed in 1916 by a 2nd cousin 5 times removed. This small booklet traced some of my maternal lines all the way back to 1661 in Schenectady and Albany, New York.

From there, I made investments in genealogy software, purchased subscribtions to sites like Ancestry, Footnote and the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and made many field trips to cemeteries in Rhode Island and New York.

As of today I can trace my heritage back more than 11 generations in several countries, mostly the United States, the Netherlands, England and France.

The Detours

I will admit to some whimsy here and very often I will digress. But isn't that what you do when you try to depict a life as three dimensional? If my intent is to illustrate the lives of my ancestors as more than mere birth dates and death dates, then too I have to be prepared to show not only what interests me, but why.

When I am off on a detour, however, I often will tie it back to genealogy and family history if only to show that I really am not just rambling on and on. One example are my posts about technology and and how our ancestors adapted to new forms of it.

The Compass (or GPS?)

While I don't think my home office is as tricked out as some of my genealogy colleagues, I am running two computers, a scanner, a printer, music (I love my iPod Nano), and I use various tools such as iGoogle, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Jott and facebook®.

Some technologies that are on my list to pursue, thanks to many people like Miriam Robbins Midkiff, Denise Olson, Kathryn M. Doyle and more, include Adobe Photoshop Elements and digital scrapbooking, Twitter, Diigo, Stumble Upon, and more.

The Emotions

Very often travel is the act of taking in and absorbing all that the sense see, feel, hear, smell and more during that trip. And it is easy to find yourself elated as well as angered over some of what you witness. As an outlet, there is my writing.

And I have to thank my good friend Jasia for all her support and feedback in this realm - she was one of the first genea-bloggers with whom I made contact and felt a true kinship. It is more than just our shared experiences of a parent with Alzheimer's Disease but a true love of writing and trying to place our family history into words not data that unites us.

I write almost every day but I don't publish every piece here on this blog. What do I write about? Everything from how I spent my summers in Grahamsville, New York to the house I grew up in and to family members who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The Traveler

Finally, a bit about me which could help put all of this in perspective. I grew up in the Catskill Mountain region of upstate New York during the 1960s and 70s. I went to college in Washington, DC and then moved out to California where I lived in San Francisco for the next 18 years. While my academic background was history, art and Spanish language and literature, I somehow fell into the burgeoning technology industry of the early 1980s with the debit of the IBM Personal Computer.

While temping at various firms, I found my niche as an Information Technology specialist working for global law firms - firms often with as many as 1,500 attorneys across the globe. My positions have included software trainer, technical writer, document production supervisor, and now applications analyst. Currently I work for Heller Ehrman LLP which is based in San Francisco but I do so from my home in Chicago. I develop in-house applications using Microsoft Office as well as manage information technology projects from inception to deployment and support.

When I am not working, which seems to be 24/7, I enjoy researching new technologies to use with my family research. And very often, as you may have heard, I will pull my blogging colleagues (we call ourselves Genea-Bloggers) to those new technologies, sometimes kicking and screaming.

I have lived in Chicago for the past four years with my partner of over eight years. We live in a rehabbed 1903 brick three-flat in the Andersonville section, right on Lake Michigan. Having Chicago as a base allows me to fly home often to check in on Mom as well as to catch flights to any point in the world. My favorite destination, and where I intend to retire to in about 15 years: Reno/Lake Tahoe.

The Destination

Where will I end up on this journey. I don't worry about that so much more as much as making sure that I experience each step and try to best convey it to you, the reader.


Kathryn Doyle said...

Congratulations on post #300 and thanks for the look back (and forward.) You have put your finger on something important that bloggers need to do - be clear about what their blog is about. You are - and it shows.

Jasia said...

Here's a great big hug coming your way Thomas. I am so proud and happy to call you my friend and to have that friendship returned. You have added so much in so many ways to our merry band of Genea-Bloggers. And you have added greatly to my life for which I am very grateful. Thank you for who you are and all you do.

To anyone reading Thomas' blog for the first time, welcome! Now go add his feed to your reader or subscribe to his blog via email. You'll be so glad you did!

Miriam said...

Beautiful and articulate (as always), Thomas! I'm glad we're fellow travelers.

Laura said...

Congratulations on #300. I really enjoyed reading this post and want to thank you for getting me involved in some of that technology and introducing me to some really great people. I feel right at home.

looking4ancestors said...

Thanks for taking us back for a quick trip down your blog's memory lane. As a fairly new reader of your blog I found it helpful and very informative. I am looking forward to reading the next 300 posts.