Reading a post on Facebook by a genealogy friend about one of her kittens who had jumped onto a shelf in a closet and ‘encountered several boxes of family history memorabilia” prompted this blog post.1 By the time my friend investigated the rattling in the closet, the cat was “…happily sitting on top of two boxes with the contents of the third strewn all over the closet.” Being somewhat partial to providing punch lines for situations; I posted the following comment, “You are quite a role model [for genealogical research] when even the cats get into family history.” Thinking about my comment later I began to reflect on what it would mean to be a genealogical role model.
Professional Genealogical Research and Recording
My first criteria would be bringing professionalism to my research. That is not to say that I would be a professional genealogist, rather that I would seek accurate information about my ancestors. Conducting the exhaustive searches for records and citing their sources when using them would be part of that professionalism. Careful analysis of records would be a must to make sure that they actually were those of my ancestors.
A Welcoming Attitude to Other Genealogists
A welcoming attitude to new genealogists or genealogists new to certain record sets or to research in a geographical area would be my second criteria. Helping researchers understand research in particular record sets and geographical areas is part of what I try to do on a regular basis. My usual comment at lectures I give is that I don’t mind helping researchers figure out where to research and what records to explore, but I do not do the researching for them. My rationale for the latter comment is that I personally like to do the research so I have the pleasure of finding that important record which breaks through my brickwall. I do use professional researchers or local researchers when it would be too costly to travel to see records that aren’t digitized and on line.
Visible Presence as a Genealogist
My third criteria would be having a visible presence in an online tree or wiki, blog, newsletter and journal content and/or in the publishing of family history books in order to encourage other researchers to record the results of their research in a sharable format. I chuckle when other researchers say that as a former teacher I have writing skills that they do not have. I remind them that as an elementary school educator I expected the students to write not me. My role was to help them revise and edit their written work to make it the best that it could be. My writing as an educator was related to writing report cards, school newsletters and the odd report at administration request. My writing skills were developed as I wrote material for newsletter articles. Many a time I roughed out a story and then “slept on it”. At least a day later I would take out the draft and revise it extensively. Any article that was to be sent to a journal or newsletter editor for publishing was revised numerous times. Some of them were revised again at the request of the editor of the particular publication. There is no shame in being asked to revise an article that you have written. Seeing your well written article in print is satisfying.
Keep Up to Date on New Record Sets and Research Strategies
A fourth criteria would be staying up to date about new record sources and new genealogical search strategies relevant to your own areas of genealogical research. This could be done by using record sources to gain familiarity with them, attending webinars on relevant genealogical topics, watching relevant Youtube videos or being involved in twitter chats and Facebook circles.
So how do you do all of this while still being part of family life, getting the housecleaning, cooking and yard work done, targeting vacations to satisfy other family members’ interests and all of the other intrusions into your life by events outside your control? Sorry. I can’t help you with structuring your life, I am barely coping with mine!
This post was written with the intention of stimulating discussion, since some genealogical researchers may have the same attitude as larger than life sports figures who do not see themselves as needing to be a role model for others. Feel free to point out other criteria or to note my feet of clay- my wife is already good at that!
1. My genealogical friend gave me permission to use the information from her Facebook post.
Lambton County Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society