When I started my research I waited weeks for documents to arrive in the mail, for films to reach my local FHC, for responses to those ever-popular "Are you my family?" inquiry letters. Now if my computer hesitates for a millisecond while I'm browsing through census pages, I wonder what is causing the delay. It isn't that I've become less patient. It's more that I've become accustomed to instant gratification when I'm on a genealogical mission.
But all that gathering takes a toll. I can accumulate record numbers of pages in record time. I know it's impossible to analyze seven thousand documents a week, yet the availability of so much information is seductive. Why shouldn't I download this page and that, print them, and add them to the ever-growing pile of paper on my desk?
The answer is simple: too many clues get lost in the shuffle. When I stop, drop, and roll through the ream of paper on my desk (figuratively, not literally), I find all sorts of new-to-me information:
- Oh, so that's where he's buried!
- Ah ha, her middle name was her grandmother's maiden name!
- How ironic, this child was born on his late father's birthday!
- This is the first time I saw her signature!
Gathering is great fun, and truly necessary now and again. Just don't fill your basket so full of miscellany that you miss a trophy catch lurking along the way.