A scheduling conflict a few weeks ago left me with two hours and nothing to do. Nothing. No e-mail, no Internet, no phone. Just blank paper and a pencil. I thought I was going to get nothing done. I could not have been more wrong.
A column idea had been on the back burner for some time. I began outlining the article in a way I had not done in years: on paper. Before long the outlining had disintegrated into actual paragraphs and before I knew it the article I had struggled on was finally drafted. The draft was followed by two written out tips for the Ancestry Weekly Journal newsletter and blog. No computer was in sight.
I then wrote down a research problem I had been struggling with for some time. Summarizing what I could remember, research ideas were outlined. Since an Internet connection was not to be had, instant follow-up at a website was not possible. I kept listing research options, spelling variants, possible misconceptions, assumptions, all without being able to do any actual “searching.” Before it was time to go, I had done the same thing for two other “brick walls.” The drawback was I might not have remembered something correctly, but now I would have to go back and review my research and look. I made real progress on three lines without being on the computer or connected to the Internet.
Constant access to the world makes it tempting to search, search, search. Sometimes we need to think, think, think. Consider spending your next few genealogy hours offline and not “researching.” Spend it thinking, remembering, and brainstorming. You may be surprised how much you find out while you’re “offline.”