Missing opportunities with tunnel vision

I spent years focusing on one thing- finding my grandmother’s sister. It became so frustrating waiting and waiting and waiting for something to happen. When she was finally found this summer by the American Red Cross, I was relieved that I had been working on other projects.

Tunnel vision is never good in any situation. Opportunities will easily escape you. I learned this the hard way two years ago. I was so focused on finding my grand aunt that when I found the posts my maternal grandfather’s nephew put on a Russian genealogy forum, he already died two years before. I had been visiting the same genealogy forum for years but never bothered to look up my grandfather’s surname on the message board.

The guy was so determined to find my family. If I had made time to look at the message board for my grandfather’s surname years before, I could have met him and my several dozens of cousins in Kiev. I could have seen the buildings that my great-grandfather constructed as an architect. I could have also met my cousin’s daughter in the USA while she studied abroad in the states. By the time I found the messages, he had died, I already had an infant I could not leave for a week-long trip to Ukraine and I did not have money for the trip. I have to wait another two years to take the trip because my kids need to be older when I leave for the family reunion.

Now, I am researching all my family lines, even a line whose family does not bring up many good childhood memories. I have met some wonderful cousins online in Moscow, Kiev and Hamburg because I opened myself up to researching all my family lines and searching for relatives from each family line. I have letters my great-grandfather wrote to his brother during the early 20th century that I never imagined seeing. I have a family tree for the mother and father’s sides of a great-great-grandmother, going back to the early 1700s in Prussia. A grandson of my great-great-grandmother’s brother gave me the family tree his uncle made a decade before I was born.

I updated that family tree for the first time in 40 years for each family line I could find. A few months after I completed the year-long project, my mother and I met a daughter of the man who created the family tree for a weekend in New York City. It was a weekend I will never forget.

If I stayed focused just on finding my grandmother’s sister until the end, I don’t think I would have been excited when the Red Cross called about my grand aunt. I would have been frustrated that the search took so long.

I have learned so much about finding relatives and information on my entire family by working on other projects while I waited for the call from the Red Cross. I have much more confidence and information needed to fill other holes in my Russian family tree, in addition to having a much larger family than I had as a child. My life would never have been enriched by so many “new relatives” if I remained focused on one missing relative.