What Does It Take To Be A Successful Genealogist?
We wanted to find out what traits and personal qualities are important to have success in genealogy, so we posed this question to a few reputable genealogists who would know best. Whether you’re just starting out or already have some experience in genealogical research, here are some qualities worth thinking about to help bring out your inner genealogist…
What the Experts Say:
Megan Smolenyak (@megansmolenyak)
“Above all, curiosity! That and persistence. There’s almost always a way around those inevitable brick walls if you’re stubborn enough! Also doesn’t hurt if you’re of a puzzle-solving mindset. The real fun begins once you get past name-collecting mode.”
Miriam Midkiff (@Kidmiff)
“It is important to learn about the various genealogy resources, be they vital records, court records, or deeds. Learn why these resources are helpful and what can be gleaned from them genealogically, by reading up on them, taking classes, or attending genealogical society meetings. Learn where to access these resources, too. Are they microfilmed? Are they online? Do you have to visit a courthouse, archive, library, or other repository to access them? Remember that not all resources are online, and many never will be! Cite your sources so when conflicting information comes up, you can determine which is more likely to be accurate by analyzing the source of that information. Finally, understand the social, religious, and political history of the times and locations in which your ancestors lived. I recommend reading Joy Hakim’s “The History of U.S.” as a great start to understanding American history.”
Leland Meitzler (@lemetizler)
“I believe that it’s important that anyone involved in exploring family history have the ability to analyze data, extract even the smallest of clues and locate additional data – leading to interesting and useful family history. These are usually learned traits, but I’ve met folks who just seemed to have it in their genes…
It’s good to have a “never give up” attitude, but it’s also important to know when to back off, and let the problem rest for a bit. A brick wall today may be successfully dealt with by letting time go by, allowing additional resources to surface. This has certainly been the case as the Internet has grown.”
Randy Seaver (@RJSeaver)
* A general knowledge of world history, and a specialized knowledge of the events and key persons that created national and local history in the times and places that our ancestors lived. Governmental units, migration paths, legal issues, settlement patterns, social folkways and norms, etc. are all part of this history challenge.
* Experience in learning and using research techniques to perform genealogy and family history research in both traditional (libraries, archives, courthouses, cemeteries, etc.) and online (websites, databases, CDROMs, software, etc.) resources, plus the knowledge of how different record types (e.g., family papers, vital records, military, census, land, probate, newspaper, cemetery, directories, and many others) can be used.
* Conduct of a reasonably extensive search for all records pertaining to a person and his/her extended family and associates using cluster genealogy techniques.
* The personal discipline to cite record sources consistently in appropriate citation formats, for all records obtained.
* The critical thinking ability to analyze research needs, to determine where records might be found, to use the found genealogy records correctly, and to draw objective conclusions about relationships, names, places, and dates.
* An organizational system that provides ready access to all gathered research material – books, periodicals, papers, documents, images, etc.
* A network of like-minded researchers that can provide advice, encouragement and constructive criticism on seemingly unsolvable research problems. This may be an online study group, a genealogy society small group, or an extensive mail correspondence.
* Sharing research knowledge and techniques with other interested parties through books, magazine articles, blogs, websites, society meetings, presentations, etc.
* This knowledge and experience is not gained overnight, or even in a year or two. Most people learn these habits and skills over many years and gradually become more effective and successful. There is no substitute for hard work and studying in genealogy research!
What other traits or characteristics would you add?