In genealogy, you never know when an old client will reappear. Often you have someone come back several times in a short space of time, leading to a succession of searches over a period of a few years. Occasionally a client who had a single search done may return after a few years to pick up the trail again. If you’ve been practising as a professional genealogist as long as I have, you don’t really get surprised when a client returns after several years … but what about a decade, or even three?
Time passes much faster as you get older. It’s been a while since my last blog post – well, seven months and, between that and the post before it, nine months. It’s just as well that I call it A Very Occasional Blog!
Two unexpected and pleasant things happen recently that motivated me to write this post. Firstly, in April 2023 I received a request from a former client to revisit a search I had reported to him in December 2010. That was a gap of 12 years. Secondly, in May a similar request came from a client to whom I had reported in December 1990. A full 32 years had elapsed since we last communicated. There was exactly a twenty year gap between the initial reports for these two clients, and now both of them were back to me within the space of a month for follow-up searches. Now, that was extraordinary.
Back in 1990, I had eleven years of experience in genealogical research and I was already operating under the name Gorry Research for three years. At the time I was still living in Dublin and I had no notion of ever using a computer myself. I didn’t need one: research was all done using books, original documents, microfilm or microfiche. I had a few freelance researchers working for me, as well as a freelance typist, whom I met once a week in the café in the Alliance Francaise in Kildare Street. I had no need of an office: instead, I had an accommodation address at 6 Hume Street. That was a building owned by the late, lovely Mona Germaine, who rented out offices and meeting rooms as well as providing office services and accommodation addresses. I was able to send faxes to clients from there. That was the height of technology and I often watched my page going into the machine, thinking how wonderful it was that my client in Australia, or Canada or wherever, had already received it.
When contacted by the 1990 client in May, I had to search for his file. Of course, I always keep hardcopy client files, but I also wanted to find the report for this one on disk – a floppy disk, for anyone too young to have heard of one, is square and not floppy. It is the parent of the CD and the grandparent of the memory stick / flash drive. The last time I had occasion, some months ago, to turn on my very ancient Dell desktop computer, it was as co-operative as ever. Unfortunately, this time there wasn’t a murmur out of the poor old faithful servant. So, the hardcopy print-out in the hardcopy file was the only option.
As it transpired, the 2010 client commissioned a second search in May and the 1990 client commissioned one in July. In both cases, it’s been a while, but I’m still here to pick up where we left off.