Back in the groovy 60’s and 70’s when all our neighbors drove down to the Jersey Shore each weekend we had to be different, the King family headed to Stonington Connecticut. We would visit my grandparents and enjoy the Rhode Island beaches a few miles away. I brought along my personal companion, motion sickness…. My parents would plop me in the back seat with several brown grocery bags doubled, make me buckle-up, and tell me to try to sleep. The trip usually included a fog of cigarette smoke and me asking them to pull over, which usually fell on deaf ears (pretty typical of most parents of that era). Three and a half hours later we would arrive at our destination, and I would bounce back once on solid land. I recall kissing the ground on one of the trips, stunning my grandparents. I had gotten sick 11 times that ride, and my 9-year-old self must have decided to be a bit of a wise guy. Though today I can’t read in the car, I usually don’t have motion sickness when traveling.
When I started genealogy back in the mid-90’s there was only one way to get census records, and that was via microfilm. Two Saturdays a month I would trust the husband with our 2 year old twins, and take a few hours to go to the basement of Alexander Library at Rutgers University. I had to cram a lot of research in those brief times so I did everything as quickly and efficiently as possible. To be honest I was also afraid that my husband would decide 2 toddlers were too much for him, so I would fly out of the house as quickly as possible. Don’t get me wrong I love my children, but my sanity was at stake here! I would skip breakfast grab my bag and a coffee and head to my few hours of quiet.
I recall the relief of finally understanding out how Soundex worked and then finding my family on the 1920’s census. Ironically my first dip in the genealogy pool had the family I was researching, Fennimore indexed as Tenimore, so I had to go line by line manually through my hometown. It was during this long search that my old buddy motion sickness crept back into my life. I think at the time I had it confused with a more recent acquaintance morning sickness, but I was able to rule that out easily enough. To say I was less than pleased is an understatement. I had to cut one trip short because it was just so bad, and I even questioned if I would be able to continue with this obsession, hobby.
I decided I wouldn’t be beat so easily, and tried some strategies to keep myself from feeling icky. It never occurred to me to ask fellow genealogists for solution, because I assumed I was the only person to have this malady. Recently I attended the spring program sponsored by the Genealogical Society of NJ, and struck up a conversation with a fellow attendee. I believe we were discussing the convenience of online census records, and feeling friendly shared that I tend to get sick when viewing microfilms. Much to my surprise she told me many researchers encounter that same problem. I guess I need to get off the Internet, out of cemeteries and talk to actual living people a little more frequently!
This past Monday I was at our state archives and thanks to a protest practically had the place to myself. I had headed out extra early to beat the demonstrators and made it in right before they closed off the road. I meant to grab a protein bar, but the voracious teenagers beat me to them (schools out) so I went sans breakfast. I was speeding through the reels, had a good machine that didn’t need to be manually cranked and the drawers were all mine, so no waiting for others to grab 10 films…Nirvana! It was then my stomach lurched a bit, and my old pal said “I’m baaaaackkk”. Luckily I was a little better prepared this time and employed my sour stomach avoidance strategy. While this may not work for you it seems to work for me.
Tips to avoid “Motion Sickness”:
- Do not look at the screen while you wind forward – I can’t stress this enough! It is better to scroll past and back track than constantly keeping your eyes on the screen.
- Do not research on an empty stomach – My theory (non-scientific) is that there must be too much acid in the stomach, and it needs food to keep it busy. My hypothesis may be wrong, but it does help to have something to eat before the symptoms set in.
- Mints or Jolly Ranchers – Again not sure why but a tic tac, or a hard candy seem to help relieve the queasiness for me.
- Fresh Air – Particularly if you are in a basement or small-enclosed area, a step out to get a few breaths seem to close down the symptoms.
- Drink some water. Can’t say if it’s the actual act of leaving the machine to search for a water fountain, or the drinking of the water that provides relief but it seems to help.
So weak-stomached genealogists unite! Please feel free to share any tricks that have helped you over the years, or at the very least know that you are not alone. I’m going to need them I have some newspapers searches to do, and unfortunately I have only “decades” as dates.