Tips for Genealogy Burn Out 2

Crown Hill National Cemetery Photo Credit: Katie Andrews Potter

Do you ever get burnt out on genealogy? I know you know the feeling. That feeling of your eyes aching after hours staring at a computer screen combing through records, or your back hurting from bending over books at the library, just searching for that one person’s background, their maiden name, their birth location, their parents… and nothing turns up.

Nothing turns up. For years, nothing turns up. Those memes that say “said no genealogist ever” make me laugh – especially the one that pretty much says: “okay, that’s that! All of my ancestors have been found and filed away.” Nope. Never going to happen. That’s why genealogy is a lifelong venture. That’s why we stick with it for years. We’re passionate about the work, but sometimes we do need breaks from it. But if we really don’t want to or can’t let it go for long, but we’re ready to throw our computer across the room in frustration, what can we do?

Here are some tips for rejuvenating your love for genealogy (and you know you do love it) if you’re feeling burnt out.

1. Revisit an old discovery.

We all have them. That’s why “genealogy happy dance” is an actual term (and a hashtag). I remember receiving a letter from an Andrews relative that broke through one of my biggest brick walls and jumping up and down celebrating in my living room with the letter in my hand. This discovery had been years in the making too! Recall that old feeling, and know it can happen again if you keep persevering. Yes, it may be a while, but it can happen again.

2. Read about a favorite ancestor

We all have “favorite” ancestors. Someone who has stood out to us, who speaks to us in some way. Read their words, their biography, or even look at the old records about them, even if it’s just a passenger list that you worked so hard to find. Remind yourself that your hard work paid off and you brought them back to life through your research. Read about their life and remind yourself why they mean so much to you - and why you do what you do.

An autumn walk in Crown Hill National Cemetery Photo Credit: Katie Andrews Potter

3. Take a walk in a cemetery

Fresh air does wonders for us all. Often when I need a break I go out in the backyard and listen to the birds. But if you want to rejuvenate your genealogy bone, go for a walk in a nearby cemetery. It doesn’t even have to be one in which your ancestors are buried. Any cemetery will do. Let the history and beauty of the place soak in and remind yourself of the importance of what you’re doing, even if it’s driving you crazy right now.

4. Visit your relatives

Visiting a relative who shares your family history can reignite your energy for your genealogy. Listen again to your older relatives’ stories, revisit stories of your childhood with a sibling, or spend time with your children or grandchildren to remind yourself of who you will be passing all your hard work onto, and to experience the joy of family.

Lastly, remember there is always more to discover. It’s out there. You know the joy of discovery after years of pursuit – finding that record, that photograph, that grave stone. It’s out there. You can find it, if you keep on working. Just sometimes we need that break. But then it’s right back to it. Be encouraged, you’re doing wonderful work. You got this!

Katie Andrews Potter

About Katie Andrews Potter

Katie Andrews Potter is a 9th generation Hoosier and has been researching her family history since she was 16. She has a degree in Elementary Education, has done graduate work in History, and is currently pursuing a certificate in Genealogical Studies from NIGS. She is the author of the young adult historical fiction series The Wayfaring Sisters, and the creator of Storybook Ancestor. She lives in Indianapolis with her husband, Ben, and their two children, Eliana and Micah.

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