Get it While You Can Genealogy: On Lost Opportunities

Perhaps you are the rare genealogist with no regrets. My suspicion, however, is that such a genealogist does not exist. We all wonder what might have been had we acted upon an opportunity when given the chance, instead of postponing action until later

The problem with later is that opportunities are often ethereal. Even those which we fooled ourselves into thinking were permanent. Expected. Neglected. We became too comfortable.

The truth, as the regretful genealogist knows, is that later often results in opportunities that left us while we dawdled, secure in our thoughts of someday and later. We become victims of our own inaction.

The point is this: if there is an opportunity, take it when you have the chance. Family members to interview. Potential DNA donors to approach. Records to access. Family photos to digitize and share. Credentials to earn. Educations to obtain.

One of my regrets was in assuming that an elderly distant relative could not possibly still be living. I stopped correspondence attempts and later learned that she passed away at the age of 108. I missed an opportunity. Many genealogists wish that they had gathered memories, photos, letters, and precious papers tucked in Bibles when they were able.

The records! Genealogists have regrets when vital and other records vanish from databases or access to them becomes restricted. Gather them while you can.

Credentials. How long can a genealogist voice plans to attempt to earn credentials before those words become little more than noise and regrets? Permanently planning does not accomplish a task, and is not a credential in itself. Requirements change, and those in process for years become upset when the changes come before someday happens. If you want credentials now, and if you are well-prepared now, do the required work now.

Education. We love the concept. The thought of learning is exciting. Yet conference trips are postponed. Workshops and institutes are skipped. We’re secure in an education plan, and that plan is to do that next year. Legendary teachers retire and procrastinating students are disappointed. They hope that something else will come along. Next year.

Get it while you can, folks. This year. Next year. You see, 2016 signals the end of an era in genealogy education. Opportunity lost. Perhaps some saw it coming while others covered their eyes.

Those who have attended the Institute for Genealogy and Historical Research (aka Samford) have fond memories and an education. Genealogists who have waited to attend someday may have regrets. Samford University has looked ahead to its future, and it is a future without IGHR on campus. In a press release sent to the IGHR-I mailing list today, the university announced that the institute, which began in 1962, will relocate in 2017. A new venue is being sought. IGHR 2016 will be the last as the genealogy world has known it for more than 50 years.

Take advantage of the opportunities that await you. Genealogists, of all people, should be sensitive to loss. Tomorrow isn’t a sure thing.

Phone calls. Letters. Photos. DNA. Records. Credentials. Education.

Get it while you can.

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8 Responses to Get it While You Can Genealogy: On Lost Opportunities

  1. Denise levenick says:

    So true, and so well said. Time is now to get busy.

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  3. Debra A. Hoffman says:

    So true, Debbie! I am so thankful I attended one of Elizabeth Shown Mills’ last Advanced Methodology courses at IGHR, so will not have that regret. I have others that you mentioned though. So sorry that the IGHR tradition at Samford will be over after 2016. For those that have been wanting to go…go now…it is an educational opportunity that you don’t want to miss.

    • debbiemieszala says:

      It is hard to explain the IGHR experience to those who have not been. I agree that those who have skipped it should try to attend while it is still at the Samford campus. It’s a special place.

  4. Jana Last says:


    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today’s Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

  5. Pingback: This week’s crème de la crème — May 30, 2015 | Genealogy à la carte

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