Sunday, January 3, 2010

My Best Genealogy Moment of 2009

Randy Seaver over at Genea-Musings has put forth his Saturday Night Genealogy Fun request and being the beginning of a new year, we often look back to the previous year. So Randy want's to know about is the best genealogy moment of 2009 for each genealogy blogger.

Talk about a tough challenge! This is supposed to be "fun" as in "Saturday Night Genealogy Fun" - how can I possibly take all that has happened to me in 2009 and select only one moment?

* * *

For me, from a personal genealogy standpoint, the moment was around 2:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time on Monday, June 29, 2009. Yes, I can be that exact for what happened to me during that American Airlines flight from LAX to O'Hare Chicago was nothing short than an epiphany, and probably the most important revelation I will have during my middle-age years.

It was then, as I was typing on my new netbook, connected to the GoGo in-flight wifi, that I realized and said to myself, "I could make this genealogy thing work for me as a profession."

* * *

This revelation came at the end of my attendance at a great genealogy conference called "Jamboree" put on by the Southern California Genealogical Society in Burbank, California. My being there was a very last minute decision and a difficult one, for I was still unemployed despite having recently found a job in the legal tech field - a field in which I had toiled for over 25 years. And all I got was laid off and robbed of over $14,000 in wages from my ex-employer, Heller Ehrman.*

I scraped together the money needed for the airfare and hotel. I figured, at the very least, if I didn't have a good time, I'd realize that pursuing genealogy as a profession was just not for me.

* * *

Standing in the lobby of the Burbank Marriott, I heard a female voice to my right say, "Well hello Thomas. I bet you don't know who I am." And she was right - on a certain level - for I had known her for so long through our blogs. It was the footnoteMaven herself and what a way to start off a great weekend!

Over the course of those three days, what I experienced was nothing short of overwhelming. The classes, the Blogger Summit, the dinner I organized for GeneaBloggers members, the casual conversations in the hotel lobby, the sharing of ideas. As we say in genealogy research - that the Internet is only the tip of the iceberg - so too is interacting with your genealogy colleagues. While one can probably subsist on emails, tweets and Facebook status updates it only goes so far. There is something in hearing that voice, seeing those eyes and that smile of someone who shares your passion for family history that can never be duplicated over the wire, so to speak.

* * *

What I experienced at Jamboree was pretty much a form of genealogical agape, if you understand it from 1 Corinthians 13 as I do.

I was in fellowship with like minds and like hearts. And while sad to be on that flight, such was the power of that weekend that it brought about my revelation: I could truly change careers in mid-life and pursue my passion.

* I can say this freely and with confidence since I can and have proven such facts in a court of law. I am part of a class action lawsuit along with all the other ex-employees of Heller Ehrman and of course, being who I am, I also set up a blog to document that journey.

© 2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee


Lisa / Smallest Leaf said...

Thanks for sharing your "aha moment" and this insight into your personal journey this year, Thomas. I and many others am glad to have you in the world of genealogy. Wish I could have joined you all at the conference. Here's to a great 2010!

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Amy Coffin said...

I remember when you were on the fence about your path. I am so happy you chose genealogy, as the field needs you. Jamboree was the same way for me. About half way through the day before the conference even started, I knew I had to go in 2010. Congratulations on *the moment* and future good moments to come.

Lee said...

Thank you for sharing your story, Thomas!