04 December 2008

Genealogy = Hard Work

There are different kinds of genealogy works. One kind involves tracing your root all the way back to the beginning, like what our friend The Lone Gunman did with 23andme etc. You would learn that your ancestors came from certain region of the world, maybe that you are remotely related to some famous/infamous historical figure. I am not into that kind of genealogy work at all. What I am after is to be prepared to answer some kid's question, "How am I related to Person X?"

You would think in this Information Age, researching about your relatives is a piece of cake. But that is not the case when most of your relatives are in Viet Nam. While I am ambitious in that I want to establish a placeholder for every person I know about, all I need for those holders are birth year, death year (if applicable), a name, a Chinese or Vietnamese name, or both, and a face. I take photos often so my iPhoto library is a good place to start. I am also lucky that my mother brought from Viet Nam a few really old photos. I am equipped with the speedy and very portable Fujitsu ScanSnap S300M, so photo positives faze me not. One cousin has a large photo collection with KodakGallery as well as in Facebook, so her side of the family is well-covered. This time around I'm also reaching out to cousins, distant and close, via email, although so far my success rate is zero.

Still, it is hard work to go through all the info I have at my disposal. Unlike my mother with her neatly organized photo albums, most of my photos are in those small albums that the photo shop gave us. At least back when we used to develop films. Nowadays, they are in iPhoto amd most are named like 100_2497.JPG or DCP_2997.JPG, totally useless for iPhoto's Search function. I've been going through the physical photos and scan people in whenever I find someone I need to add to the extended tree. Of course iPhoto's digital takes preferences, but there are some people who were never captured on digital "film", so the ScanSnap has been busy. As I add or go through iPhoto, I also rename the files or add names to the Description field. I also borrowed a few photos from my mother's collection. I even scanned the back of some photos as they contain invaluable info about the people in the photos. I plan to ask my mother lots of questions, about the people in the photos and the relationship. It is a lot of hard work but I also enjoy the detective work very much.

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