Blogs » Reflections of Ancestors » Society of the Shaky Green Leaf


I have met lots of people over my twenty plus years of genealogical research. Some are die hard “old school”. Some are members of the Society of the Shaky Green Leaf. Then there is the group of us that are both “old school” and belong to The Society. What do I mean by “old school” and who is this Society comprised of?

Well, when I started doing research in 1989, there wasn’t much on the internet or very many places you could go “high tech” and do genealogy on the web. We had to go “old school”. We went to the cemeteries and walked for hours hoping there was a marker for our loved one. If we didn’t find one, we walked again…and again…and again…until we found it or gave up assuming that one either never existed or it was broken or otherwise destroyed. We travelled to court houses and spent hours in the “archived records”. Translation: in the dark damp deepest recess of the courthouse reading funny looking handwriting. It wasn’t all gloomy. Sometimes, we were ushered into a brightly fluorescent lit room of books of records and left to our own devices. Then…TECHNOLOGY happened to genealogy research!!!

All of a sudden there was this place called the Internet and many of us did not know how to get there. We were told to travel on the Information Super Highway. Many were not prepared for the high speed at which we could transport ourselves to different states where we had hit a brick wall. Once upon a time, we hit a brick walls because we couldn’t travel to North Dakota to get the records we needed. We only travelled locally (or within the state). Some embraced this Information Super Highway and places like Family Search or Ancestry or Find A Grave were now frequent stops for us. Instead of having to take a family vacation to the courthouse in Pecos, we could just hop on the computer (instead of getting into the Dodge Prospector), ease onto the Super Highway (instead of Highway 59) and stop at Family Search or Ancestry (instead of San Antonio to spend the night before traveling again).

Thus the Society of the Shaky Green Leaf (SSGL) was born. We were able to research at any time of day or night based on the little shaky green leaf giving us all those great hints to who and where we came from. No longer were our families subject to yet another vacation in the cemetery on a back road in the middle of nowhere. No longer were they forced to locate books in those dark dank basement repositories. I joined the SSGL many years ago. It is much easier to research today than back in the day. Because of this, there are GENEALOGY SNOBS. Yes, I said it. There are people out there that really loathe the fact that now just about anybody can do research and become gatherers of names. I secretly believe that the gathering is what these snobs are most opposed to because while names and dates are gathered, the supporting documents aren’t copied or cited. I will be covering proper citation in my next blog.

I admit that while those of us that had to do research “old school” style and are snobby at times; we still have a wealth of information and knowledge because not everything can be researched on the Information Super Highway. But, because of the hardships they had in researching their family histories; they can tend to belittle the SSGL members. They get mired in routine, systems, and thoughts of the past. They tend to possess a reluctance to accept newer technologies, which they hold some unexplained feeling of resentment against, and then they take a stance of opposition to anyone who might actually think these technologies are useful.

I have embraced my membership in the SSGL, perhaps you are too young to remember going on those family vacations for research while all your friends were going to Disney or Six Flags. I also think secretly those opposed to the SSGL are closet travelers on the Information Super Highway. Surely, every “occupation” or “hobby” has its snobs. We are, after all, human. I do at times wish we could put all those staunch snobs on a deserted isle and let them slug it out amongst themselves. However, I would much rather put all of us in a very large structure—perhaps the Reliant Stadium in Houston—and let us all join forces and learn from each other. The younger generations can teach us older generations how to garner the most from our time on line and the older generations can teach the younger generations how to do research when the records aren’t available on the Information Super Highway rest areas.

I did not, and you probably haven’t either, picked up the genealogy bug on your own. Someone, somewhere along the way showed you some kindness, taught you how to look for information on your ancestors, gave you some helpful suggestions to jump the brick wall, gently corrected you along the way in your research, led you to some new information or location of a family heirloom, and perhaps at times, pushed you along the way so that you didn’t stop at that brick wall. We need to not be snobs when it comes to being an “old school” researcher or a proud member of the Shaky Green Leaf Society.

We all have a lot to learn from each other. Until next time, happy hunting down your ancestors!