Are you ONE

Are you ONE?????


by Beth Maltbie Uyehara [email protected]

Hi. My name is Beth M. U., and I'm a geneaholic. My story's not a pretty one. I am sharing it here in the hope that it may help others avoid my pitiful fate. If you, too, are addicted to genealogy, I want you to know that you are not alone. There are thousands of us worldwide struggling in the daily battle against this cunning, baffling and powerful addiction.

There was something "different" about me from the get-go. Looking back, the signs were there for all to see. Even as a child, when relatives threw old Daguerreotypes in the trash, I would fish around among the coffee grounds and egg shells and pull them out. When old letters or diaries were discovered in musty trunks, I stayed up all night reading them. Obits, report cards, discharge papers, photos of unknown people: I hoarded them all. I didn't care what kind of document it was, or who it concerned -- if it was remotely connected to "family," I had to have it.

I'm making no excuses. I had a good upbringing. Genealogy certainly doesn't run in my family -- I come from a long line of people who could take their ancestors or leave them alone. Yes, there were rumors of an aunt on my father's side who "did a little research on weekends," but she covered her tracks well, and I have never been able to prove for certain that she was a geneaholic. Aside from that one suspect, my relatives were all what we call "social genealogists." For them, a colorful forebear or two were good for party conversations, to be chuckled over at family gatherings, and that was it.

Not me. Right from the beginning, I was out of control. I could never stop with just one or two ancestors. Every ancestor I found triggered an insatiable craving in me for two more, and four more after that, and eight more after that. I could not stop once I got started. Eventually, genealogy took over my life. Bouts of compulsive research would leave me babbling incoherently, slumped exhausted, sometimes barely conscious, at a microfilm reader in some darkened room, surrounded by other addicts satisfying their own shameful cravings for genealogical kicks. Many are the times I've been thrown out of a library at closing time, kicking and screaming, begging for just five minutes more, just "one more ancestor for the road." It was humiliating.

As the years went by, things went from bad to worse. It was an endless downward spiral. I found myself sneaking from library to library in distant parts of town, even in other cities and states, searching for the ultimate high -- that mysterious immigrant ancestor, whose identity would make everything fall into place. I hit bottom one hot August day in a cemetery in a far-off state. How I got there doesn't matter. Let's just say that after much research, I had located the grave of an ancestor who -- according to family legend -- had died in some kind of accident. As I stared at the weathered, old tombstone, wondering how I could find out how he had died, the thought occurred to me: "I could dig him up and see." Immediately, I recoiled, aghast. "Eeeeeuuuuuuu," I cried, "yuk! That's gross."

That's when I knew I needed help. Since that moment of clarity, I've joined numerous genealogy support groups where we offer each other strength and hope, along with research tips and potluck dinners. And I have finally admitted, to myself and to other human beings, that I am powerless over genealogy and my research has become unmanageable. It may be too late for me. But, science has found that young family historians -- those who are, as yet, only potential geneaholics -- can sometimes stop in time. Answer these questions to see if you are in the early stages of addiction.

bullet* Home: Has genealogical paperwork taken over any room in your house?
bullet* Friends: Is genealogy interfering with your social life? Do people edge away from you at parties when you burst into tears over the 1890 U. S. census?
bullet* Family: Do your relatives' eyes glaze over when you explain your latest research? Do you find dead people more fun than live ones?
bullet* Work: Is genealogy interfering with your job? How many hours of each workday do you spend on the Internet, or checking your RootsWeb e-mails?
bullet* Marriage: Has your spouse ever asked you, "Aren't you done yet? How far back are you planning to go?"
bullet* Health: Are you starting to show the physical and mental signs of geneaholic deterioration, such as red-rimmed eyes, a loss of interest in current events, a shortened attention span for non-ancestral topics, excessive viewing of the History Channel?

If you answered yes to even one of these questions, you are on the road to genealogical addiction. You must not research even one more ancestor! You must stop NOW, before it's too late! When you feel an overwhelming urge to research, repeat the following until the urge goes away: "My mother found me in a cabbage patch. My mother found me in a cabbage patch. My mother found me in a cabbage patch." Good luck and God help you.

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Previously published in MISSING LINKS: Vol. 7, No. 7, 17 February

2002, and written [or submitted] by [name, e-mail address, and URL, if