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

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Are there any Shortcuts in Genealogy?

It would be nice if there were genealogical wormholes that could transport us back to talk to our ancestors and interview them about their lives. But, alas, wormholes and time travel are mostly left to people like Dr. Who and his friends and Stargates. The fact that both wormholes and time travel have yet to make a dent into the need for genealogical research does not seem to stop some genealogists from touting shortcuts and using terms such as quick, easy, fast, and so forth.

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. Let's suppose you are looking for an ancestor in Maryland. You begin by searching on Google for your ancestor's name. No results. You have access to,,, and, so you search all four of these huge websites. No results. You don't find any mention of your ancestor. Wait a minute. You have just barely started looking but you have definitely left quick, easy, fast and any shortcuts far behind. What about the Maryland State Archives? Yes, they do have some records online, but after serving in Annapolis digitizing records for FamilySearch at the Maryland State Archives, I can surely attest that we are far from having all of their records digitized. We are only partly the way through the probate records for Maryland and according to our information, we have years of digitizing left to do.

So what is a diligent genealogist to do? Where is the shortcut? If you can't find the records online, you have to travel to the Maryland State Archives and look at the original records. Annapolis is a lovely place to visit but you might have to spend days, maybe weeks searching the records before you can feel that you have properly searched just this source.

Granted, you can always be more efficient. There are always better ways to do some of the things we do as genealogical researchers, but when you are searching through microfilm or even original records when there is no index, there is no shortcut. You just have to bite the bullet and look through the images one by one focusing on the time and the place where your ancestor lived. I have long lists of microfilmed records, now digitized to search and in some cases, I will have to be in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah to see the only copy I can find.

Returning to the Maryland example, there are also a number of local historical societies and genealogical societies that have their own collections. For example, the Anne Arundel Genealogical Society has some very valuable collections that are available to members. Local and state genealogical societies are always a good source for specific information about any area of the country. But contacting these societies takes time and probably some money to access all of their records. So far, I have only mentioned a few record types and there are a lot more left to search.

Let's face reality. Genealogical research can take a great deal of effort over an extended period of time. But spending the time and the effort and when necessary, the money is worth it.

No comments:

Post a Comment