Shedding Light on the Family Tree: Organized Thought

The 43rd in a series on my family history

Prompt: Organized


My genealogical files are not at all organized. Oh sure, I have file folders set up on my lap top for all things digital, and physical files for all things paper. They’re even labeled! Still, that is the extent of it for now. Life is not what it was 30 years ago when I was working in an office and my thoughts were more linear. I was an administrative guru, in my way, and the action of shuffling of files at the office was easily transferable to the family research domain. I’m fortunate, in fact, that many of those files set up way back when are still functional. Still, they need re-organizing, which requires more time and energy than I can devote right now. At the very least I know where most things are located. At the very least.

So, short and sweet this will be.

Gordon Family History

Organizing our thoughts while undertaking family detective work is a formidable task unto itself. Sourcing through information, and misinformation, to lock in on what we can only hope is the truth requires the facts and a strong intuitive sense when something is, or isn’t, right. It’s all too easy to be led up the garden path into a swamp of uncertainty, and so it’s important to find as many primary sources as possible.

On that score, thanks to my maternal grandmother, Alice Isobel (Gordon) McDonall (1916-1994), taking the time to organize her thoughts on family into a simple spiral notebook, we have a bonafide primary source of recollections providing a peek into my Scottish ancestry. However, in the writing of it granny included this caveat:

“If I have to work too hard on this and put everything in it’s proper place then I’ll just not do it so whoever reads it understand that and do your best with it.”

Alice (Gordon) McDonall
Source: Family Archives

And so, yes, while granny’s reminiscences are a bit all over the map her intention was sound and we have a reasonably reliable first-hand account of her family’s transition from a thriving urban life in Glasgow, Scotland, to the struggles of pioneering in northern Alberta, Canada. Certainly it could be organized into a more coherent chronological order, but what would be the point? It would no longer reflect her voice. I transcribed it verbatim; the facts are clear enough.

The Final Word

The organized thought is an important tool while pursuing family history. My grandmother’s albeit short memoir is the only first-hand account, as far as I’m aware, of her family’s trials, tribulations and triumphs. Without it we would know nothing of how they began to create new lives in Canada almost 100 years ago. Had other relations and ancestors had such presence of mind our family story might be more complete, but it isn’t and we must use our imaginations to interpret their lives congruent with the times and places in which they lived.

The recording of personal reminiscences by family elders is, in my opinion, an invaluable way to accumulate important details of history which would otherwise be lost to time. They provide a foundation for the sound organization of records and information which cannot otherwise be achieved.

Write it down. These posts are my organized thoughts on the matter. ❦


©Dorothy E. Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2022 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

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