Friday, November 7, 2008

Learning from the Masters

It is so easy to be seduced by genealogy records on the Internet. Trust me, I know. I love surfing through Ancestry, WVR, Footnote, Rootsweb, FamilySearch, USGenWeb, CyndisList, and all the rest... gathering nuggets of information that I might add to my database.

However, the lesson that "It's not all on the Internet" was really driven home at the Wholly Genes Conference by the professional speakers - in their presentations, the David Lambert round-tables, and in the three one-on-ones that I had scheduled. It seemed like each event just drove home the points that:

* Solving brick wall research problems can only be done in original documents

* These original documents are often in paper form at repositories - courthouses, county records, state archives, church offices, town halls, etc.

* There is no substitute for experts who know what records are in a local repository or a state archive.

Sure, the Internet provides easy access to many original and more derivative documents, but they are, in general, the "low hanging fruit" records - family trees, census, military, passenger lists, newspapers, etc. They help us find families or persons at points in time, but rarely solve our "brick wall" research problems.

The promise of FamilySearch Indexing to convert millions of FHL microfilm and microfiche images to indexed online digital images will add more records to the available online records. Some of those records will be the county deeds, probate, tax, town, etc. records that hold some brick wall solutions for all of us.

The message I received from the conference was that I need to:

* Travel to (or write to) more repositories to view and use their holdings in localities where my ancestors resided.

* Go to the LDS Family History Center more often, and order more microfilm from the LDS Family History Library.

* Become more expert on the localities of my ancestors - town, county, state, country - and the records available in those localities.

* Pass these thoughts on to my readers, colleagues, and clients. Use these thoughts, and good research examples, in my presentations, too.

I really appreciate the efforts made by the professional genealogists to educate researchers like me - I feel that I'm still transitioning from a "name gatherer" to a "genealogy researcher." It was humbling... and I'm really glad I had the opportunity to talk to these professionals who really know how to do genealogy research.

A genealogist's education never ends -- maybe that's why I love doing this!

1 comment:

Sheri said...

I couldn't have said it better myself. Words that make me all warm and fuzzy inside.

Sheri Fenley
The Educated Genealogist