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

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Next 5 Steps to Improving Your Family History Experience

If you are wondering about the first 5 steps, see "5 Steps to Improving Your Family History Experience." Here are the first 5 steps:
  • Focus on the places
  • Learn about the places
  • Identify the types of records that could have been created in the places associated with your ancestors' lives
  • Search the records
  • Keep records of what you find
The next 5 steps follow right along and help you to keep advancing and not get mired down or banging your head against a brick wall. Genealogy is like a pointillist painting that is comprised of details that create a beautiful picture if you get back far enough so the details become blurred together. Here is an example of a famous pointillist painting. 

So here I go with the next steps.

Step #6: Keep repeatedly evaluating your records

If you buy into the idea of a "Research Log," you may be working through genealogical records by using a checklist. You might think that "I looked at the 1880 U.S. Census and I didn't find anything, I don't need to look at it again." You would be wrong. You can keep looking back and you will continue to get new insights and pick up things you missed even after looking several times at the same records. As your perspective changes over time, you will see more and more information from the same records.

Step #7: Keep learning

As you gain genealogical experience, it is easy to look at the list of classes offered at a genealogical conference and dismiss most of them as too basic or assume that you know everything about a certain subject. I have been reading extensively about DNA testing for the past two years or so and just started another book on the subject. I am also learning about producing videos and spending time watching every instructional video I can find. I continually evaluate and explore ways to increase my accuracy and expand my knowledge of record sources around the world. You should never stop learning.

Step #8: Start teaching others what you have learned

The best way to learn something really well is to teach it to someone else. When you hear yourself explaining a genealogical principle, then the principle becomes part of you. It is also interesting that as you teach, you begin to evaluate the "correctness" of what you are teaching and often the questions and sometimes the challenges will reshape your understanding and methodology.

Step #9 Get to know the people you research

As you accumulate records and other documents pertaining to a particular family, you should remember to think of them as real people with real lives that had real problems and challenges. Some of my parents were pioneers in the areas where they lived. It is often easy to forget that they had specific challenges the accompanied living on the frontier. For example, my Great-Grandfather lost three children who died as infants or were young. Many families in similar circumstances lost many more children either in childbirth or as young children. Think about the times and the lives of these people you have as ancestors and relatives.

Step #10: Keep looking for improvements

This is different than just learning. You need to be innovative and try to do things more efficiently and accurately. As Emerson said, "Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds." We need to think about new programs, new ways of recording our information and use the best possible technology we can afford. If you begin to feel burdened by your genealogical research, you probably need to change the way you are working.

It is convenient to have a set number of "steps" but the core idea here is to recognize historical reality. People lived out their lives at various physical locations on the face of the earth. If there are any records that survive that document their lives, those records will be associated with the places they lived. Identifying and finding those records is what genealogy is all about. But what you do with the information you accumulate determines whether your discoveries will be long-lasting or a flash in the pan. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing these "steps". I have been going back through and trying to do several of the 10 steps. I found an Orphan's Court record for one child in a brick wall family because I realized that the will mentioned specifically that not all children had reached their majority. So a record would have been generated. I've been learning about DNA and the various tools out there. I'm impressed with the ones that Rootsfinder offers and I'm trying to see how they compare to other tools. And I've learned one reason why a family ended up moving back and forth between Kansas and Oklahoma thanks to a blog about the Oklahoma land rush.