Monday, January 26, 2015

What do you find to be the biggest challenge when doing your genealogy?

Recently I got the ideas to post a survey on both Facebook and Google+ asking the above question. In this survey you had to select five ideas and see how they rated. Over the next few days I will be talking about the results.

The highest response of the ideas given was that most people found it challenging to locate the records that they are looking for on their family. As we all know finding records of any kind can be a challenge and frustrating process when researching our ancestors. A couple things came to mind that hurts us when locating records.

First one would be the lack of preparation when trying to resolve a problem. Many times we look at our brick walls with blinders on. We don't formulate a plan on how to tackle the problem. When I first started doing my genealogy I had this problem as well. Slowly though I figured out there had to be a better way. I started putting together a timeline that included in chronological order of all the information that I knew about a particular person. For me this allows me to see the gaps in my research. Then I needed to do some homework. Where had I not looked before? What records should I use to solve this problem? What are some of the limitations I might have with finding the record or information I seek? Once I was able to answer these questions I would make a list of sources I should consult. This list I would keep to make sure in the future I did not complete double work. This is a constant and ongoing process that needs to be updated. This is called a research plan. In my own situation I keep a sheet in each of my family groups so I can consult it when I go back to trying to resolve that particular challenge.

After administering on various genealogy websites for over five years I have fielded hundreds of questions that relate to record location. Why can't I find my ggrandfathers birth certificate for 1832? Why don't they have probate? They always spelled their name this way. You know what I mean. A lot of these questions can be answered by simply doing your homework or heaven forbid ask someone. The Internet and the numerous message boards make this process very easy. Even I ask questions when I don't know, which is often.

The final thought I have about the challenge of locating the records by many genealogist is the idea that if it is not on the internet it does not exist. This is wrong. Majority of records even today are still off line. The answers to our families questions still lie in the libraries, archives and genealogical societies that have been keeping these records well before the internet. One of the large challenges is getting the records online and available. This takes humans. Computers still do not have the ability to read handwriting and typing. Some day, but now. If you don't do more offline research you are cheating yourself.

So my suggestion on the locating of records is simple. Do your homework. Check your past research. Make a list of new possible resources. Don't assume you have looked everywhere. Ask someone that may be more knowledgeable in the area you are searching. Understand that it is not done in a few hours. Mine has taken over 30 years. Make sure to do offline research, because it is not all on the Internet.

More tomorrow. Make sure to click.

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