Roots to the Past

Diana Tibert
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Lessons from The Last Lecture

Roots to the Past

Lifes journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body,but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting, Hot Damn! What a Ride!

Just before Christmas, a friend gave me a copy of The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow (Hyperion, 2008, 206 pages.) I didnt get a chance to read it until the New Year. By page 51, I realized the New Year, with all its resolution making, was the best time to read this book.

Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, was diagnosed with terminal pancreas cancer and given only months to live. He had the option of hiding away at home, spending time with his family, quietly letting time slip away, but he didnt. Instead, he began on a quest only he alone could take.

With three children under the age of six, Pausch set out to create something that could be shared with them after he was gone. In his words, it was a message in a bottle, one they would find, open and inside discover their father. But Pausch did much more than that. He inspired millions of people to take stock of their lives and make the most of every minute.

On Sept. 18, 2007, Pausch gave a final lecture to 400 people at the university. He entitled it Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, but it could have been called, The Rules to Live By.

As I read the book, I couldnt help but apply these rules to my genealogy research.

Rule 1: Pg 51: The brick walls are there for a reason. Theyre not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. In other words, if you keep looking, youll eventually find that piece of missing information. And if you dont, youll have learned more than if you had given up.

Rule 2: Pg 108: Ask yourself: Are you spending your time on the right things? When you visit the archives or other research facility, go prepared. Know what you are looking for and dont get sidetracked on things that wont help your research.

Rule 3: Pg 109: Develop a good filing system. If you cant find the information, youll spend your time looking for it instead of doing hard-core research. You also wont know what you have or what you need.

Rule 4: Pg 110: Take a time out. Even the best of us need a break now and again. For a short time, put away that mystery that is frustrating you and concentrate on another area of the family tree. Often, if you leave things to sit, you can look at it with fresh eyes and a new angle.

Rule 5: Pg. 147: Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. If you prepare yourself with knowledge and experience, youll recognize opportunities that can help with your research.

Pauschs goal was simple: show how he achieved his childhood dreams and leave a legacy for his children. By doing so, he outlined in simple language how every human should strive to live.

Pausch lost his battle on July 25, 2008, but his lecture lives on, inspiring others to think about their own legacy. As genealogists, too often we ask, what have our ancestors left behind for us? Sometimes we have to ask ourselves, what will we leave behind for our descendants?

To learn more about the book, visit:

Researchers File

Who were Mary L. McLeans parents? Mary (born between 1813 and 1815, N.S. or N.B.), married Eli Cook (of Dixmont, Maine) on September 8, 1831 at Woodstock, York County, N.B. They lived in Canada than moved to Frankfort, Maine. Eli died at Belfast, Maine, age 102. Mary died Aug. 13, 1851, age 38, and was buried at Winterport, Maine. Contact: Mrs. Elvera Pardi, 174 Lower Street, Turner, ME 04282 USA; email:

Organizations: Hyperion, Carnegie Mellon University

Geographic location: Pittsburgh, Belfast, Maine, Dixmont York County Canada Winterport 174 Lower Street

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