I’ve been doing genealogy for the past five years or so, and I suspect part of the reason I’m so hooked on it has to do with the function-attitudes I have. Let’s see if we can sort this out.
I think my dominant introverted feeling gives me the basic motivation for doing genealogy. Questions like “How did I come to be me?” or “Where do I come from?” are important, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be about me. It could be about someone else that I’m doing genealogy for (I’m trying to do a family tree for each of my siblings’ kids, and I work on my husband’s, and other random people’s when they’re interested; I’ve thought about getting certified so that I could do more for other people). Or I can apply these kinds of questions to people in my family tree, like my great-great-grandmother Sophia Elise Caroline Allwardt, who was born illegitimately to a peasant family in mid 19th century Mecklenburg: what was she like? what was her life like? what would she think of her descendants and modern life? I love finding little unique details about their lives - an inventory of their belongings, a biography, a story, photographs of them, pictures or descriptions of their houses, their church.
Extraverted intuition is satisfied by the quantity and breadth of things to discover when you do genealogy. It’s one part history, one part sociology, one part literature, one part religion, one part geography, one part accountant. You learn skills from each of these fields, and you get access to specific primary source information in each of these domains. You learn about the variety of family structures in 19th century America (not much for nuclear families!), the epidemics of diphtheria that swept through a particular community, the wars and political structure of Germany, the cyclical famines of Ireland, dates when vital records were established in innumerable states, old medical terms for a host of ailments (summer complaint = cholera!). I’ve become proficient with microfilm, getting acquainted with numerous hand-writing styles and record-keeping styles, learning to read records in English, Latin, German, and Polish; figured out how to read and glean information from countless kinds of legal documents; travelled across the country eating in local diners and walking around (often now-abandoned) downtowns; investigated rural cemeteries on gravel roads; written accounts of various ancestors; gone pawing through antique stores, talked to close and distant relatives about their lives and memories of older generations. A little bit of everything.
Introverted sensation enjoys some of the same aspects as introverted feeling, I think, although the parts treated as important are different. The orienting that knowing where your family is from, being able to compare “now” and “then” to find out what has changed and what has remained the same (i.e., persistence or lack thereof).
When I’m looking for new information, extraverted intuition and introverted sensation have complementary roles. Introverted sensation recalls all the useful places I’ve found information before and suggests relevant ones for the particular search I’m carrying out. Hey! This guy was in the Civil War, and if I can find his service record, it often lists birthplace, and has information about his family. Remember how that worked for Marshall Martin? Extraverted intuition, meanwhile, keeps an eye out for sources I haven’t seen before or unexpected links. I’m scanning through results for Sarah Anne Watts and a link for Van Nuys genealogy comes up. Oh, that’s right, Peter Vannice married Sarah Anne Watts Smith. Maybe they know something. Click. Oh, look, a picture of Agatha Dickens (Sarah Anne Watts’ daughter-in-law, my 4th-great-grandmother) when she was 90 years old!
I think genealogy also provides a healthy outlet for extraverted thinking in my life. You have to learn what documents are reliable for what information. You have to know how good your evidence is, and you have to keep track of the source for each piece of information you gather. You have to know what kinds of mistakes can happen on which documents. You have to decide if two pieces of information are contradictory or support each other or maybe they don’t say anything about each other at all.
Extraverted intuition and extraverted thinking provide complementary ways of assessing and fitting together the pieces of information. Extraverted thinking lines them all up and compares the dates. It gives criteria for discarding or including a piece: Don’t take everything on a census as gospel truth; sometimes the neighbours were reporting, and someone was mistaken when they said that Mary, a daughter, was recorded here as Martin, a son. Look at the other censuses, and the fact that Mary and Martin are in complete complementary distribution. Extraverted intuition comes up with ways to connect the pieces of information, and stories about why the information is the way it is, pulling on the vast, broad data it has been surveying: Marshall Martin was born the right age to be William’s son; he lived not that far from Clarksburg; he named his son John Bray Martin, which would be William Martin’s uncle; let’s posit Marshall as Wiliam’s son. Now extraverted thinking has a theory to test. Hey! Marshall’s military record says he was born in the county Clarksburg is in; and a bio of one of William Martin’s sons lists Marshall as a half-brother. Bingo!
So as I move through the stages of genealogy: information-gathering, information-analysis, hypothesizing, concluding, understanding, each of my function-attitudes finds satisfaction: my auxiliary, tertiary and inferior functions working to support the driving force of my dominant function. Genealogy: the perfect pastime!