My big achievement in family history this past week has been making a list of all the projects completed, with completion date and number of copies on hand, and another list of the projects in process. The 16 completed projects (plus four ongoing ones) are cause for some satisfaction. The first is dated 1999, the most recent, last month. Not so satisfying, in fact daunting, is the list of projects at various stages of completion, and I use that term completion with some hesitancy. One of them reared its head only yesterday, too late to get on the typed list. Yesterday my sister Mary called, having had a brilliant idea. Of the first cousins on the English side of our family (fewer in number than those on the Mennonite, Niebuhr side) three of the seventeen are already gone, and a large majority of those remaining are in their seventies and eighties. Mary's idea is to capture the memories of the remaining cousins of our shared grandparents, who died half a century ago. To that end this morning I started to draft a letter to all the cousins, asking them to participate in this project by writing their memories of Grandma and Grandpa Hinde, who came to Canada in April 1912 with their children and founded the Saskatchewan branch of the family, now numbering 172 descendants and 80 spouses. I discovered that I don't have enough pictures of Grandma and Grandpa Hinde scanned into my computer, so that will be the next step in the project, to go through the albums and present David with a pile of scanning to do.
And so it goes. Another project.
Meanwhile the list will serve several purposes in addition to letting me feel positive about the past and daunted about the future. Daughter Allegra has offered her help with a project, any project, and I will share the list with her so she may choose which she might like to work on. If I had my preference and she had lots of time - dream on! - she would work on the Uncle Walter book. It is several hundred pages; it was transcribed several years ago from a draft which was scribbled over with emendations and often illegible marginal notes, and it has not been looked at since. The plan had been that I would get it into the computer and send a copy to cousin Rawd (Uncle Walter was his father) and Rawd would take it from there. But Rawd became more and more ill, and although he was working on family history until days before he died in October 2007, his output in his last months was limited to shorter works of family history which are now captured in the Rempel Cousin Stories, printed in late 2008.
The list will also serve to remind me of tasks to be done in the various projects. A family historian on Dad's side has a practice of starting a project and finishing it before starting another. That doesn't work for me. I like to have a choice of projects to work on at any given moment. In addition, when I have the help of others with the projects, I am dependent on their time availability to do the work they have undertaken, and that means if I used the former strategy I would go months with nothing accomplished.
This "many projects" approach applies also to my needlework, but there the prohibiting factor is carpal tunnel syndrome rather than others holding up progress. When my hands get numb doing one kind of needlework, I move to another, with half a dozen projects, each using my hands in a different way, on the go at any moment.
If this suggests I have a Type A personality (those folks who like to do more than one thing at a time) the suggestion is well taken.
Meanwhile, THE LIST. Perhaps I can metamorphose it in my mind from a whip to a kindly encouragement.