Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Comments on Becoming an Excellent Genealogist -- Chapter Seventeen

This is an ongoing series of chapter by chapter comments on the book,

Meyerink, Kory L., Tristan Tolman, and Linda K. Gulbrandsen. Becoming an Excellent Genealogist: Essays on Professional Research Skills. [Salt Lake City, Utah]: ICAPGen, 2012.

I am now commenting on Chapter 17: "Effective Use of Libraries" by Chad R. Milliner, MLIS, AG.

One of the most significant statements made by this article is on page 170,
It is impossible to conduct serious genealogical research using just resources available via the Internet. Conversely, it is also impossible to conduct serious genealogical research without using Internet resources. The Genealogical Proof Standard promulgated by the Board for Certification of Genealogists calls for a "reasonably exhaustive" search to always be done. Exactly what constitutes a reasonably exhaustive search depends on the research problem at hand, but if an entire category of materials is excluded from the search, it is impossible to say the resultant search was anywhere close to being exhaustive.
I can heartily agree. For years now, I have been dealing with people who have claimed to look "everywhere" for their ancestors. In almost every case where this claim has been made, a few direct questions from me about visits to libraries has shown the fallacy of this representation. As I have pointed out in past posts, the books in both the Mesa FamilySearch Library and now here in Provo at the Brigham Young University (BYU), Harold B. Lee Library (HBLL) Family History Library receive little or no use by the patrons.

This article is a good reminder of the need to involve books, manuscripts and other materials in libraries in our genealogical searches. Indirectly, the article points out the need to do "research in depth" and also in breadth. We need to constantly be learning about the people and places where our ancestors lived. What I think is even more interesting is that BYU offers a degree in family history and I still seldom see the books being used.

The author, Chad Milliner, has provided a very useful guide to using libraries. If I were writing the article today and knowing that the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah has now incorporated its catalog into the OCLC online catalog, I would mention the catalog more prominently. But that is a minor issue. In reality, there are dozens of libraries, many within a few hours of any in the United States that have local and nationally important collections of books and documents. I have found even smaller, local libraries can have important genealogically important documents and books.

One of the activities advocated by the author, I call "reading the shelves." He calls the same activity "Serendipitous Browsing." Catalogs are wonderful (most of the time) but there is really no substitute for walking up and down the shelves in an open library and looking for books. In addition, sedentary researchers like myself, get a little exercise in the process.

The suggestion here is simple. Go to the library and use the materials.

You may wish to review some of the preceding chapters:

1 comment:

  1. James, I agree that had I written my essay now, OCLC's Worldcat would have been much more prominently mentioned.

    Although my essay was published in 2012, I wrote it in about 2010. It took some time for ICAPGen to finish getting the book ready for publication.