Published November 14, 2017

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Your “Roots & Branches” columnist and devoted fan Eric “Rick” Bender

If you’re not familiar with faithful “Roots & Branches” reader Eric “Rick” Bender from New Mexico, well, then you’re obviously not a faithful “Roots & Branches” reader.

Bender was reacting to the column a couple of weeks ago in which I talked about my first trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

He made his first and only trip there in the late 1990s, about the same time as I did – and found many staff members to be worthwhile.

“When you find someone who understands your question and knows the facility, you can save a lot of time,” Bender wrote. “Times are changing, I know, and much of it in genealogy is for the better (with regard to online access to information). On the other hand, it’s easy to get lost in all the links or overwhelmed by heavy doses of addictive data.”

Bender started his genealogy project in January 1993 and he’s to the point where he’s missed the friendships that came from research in Lebanon County.

“I wound up making an average of two trips per year to southeastern Pennsylvania, usually about 10 days per trip, for the first ten years or more,” Bender wrote. He’d fly to Philadelphia and drive to Myerstown.

The next morning, Bender would hit the Lebanon County Historical Society’s library, meet up again with the (now deceased) librarian Christine Mason, and get caught up on all the news with the volunteers at the library. Additional days were spent at the library or in excursions to other areas.

“Some of those volunteers brought considerable knowledge about some of the county’s history – one might know some of the families particularly well; another, the towns in the past; another, boundaries and their shifts over time,” Bender recounted. “Those days are gone. The library is still there and the new staff is professional. But my gang of 1990s friends – all those volunteers –aren’t there anymore (most of them anyway).”

Bender says he thinks of those as the “good old days,” but is quick to add, “I’m sure people who began their genealogies in the 1960s think of those days as the good old days.”

Times change. “In the 1960s, it was get your driver’s license, then get a car (especially a cool car), call for a date (you could even use the corner pay phone),” Bender wrote. “Today, it’s get a phone (an expensive one that your grandparents can’t operate) and hope to get an electric, self-driving car.  No dating, no dances, no movie theaters, no drive-ins; just texting.”

Bender wonders, too, future generations. “Will future generations be more interested or less interested in their origins?  Especially if genetically-engineered children become more and more common,” he asked.

“Roots & Branches” even gave Bender tongue-in-cheek inspiration to think about another trip to the Family History Library.

“I wonder if it’s too late in the year to drive my truck up to Salt Lake?” he mused. “I could call ahead if I knew how to use a phone.”