Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My top 3 "genealogical smart moves"

After my post about My Top 3 "Genealogical Regrets" this morning, the footnoteMaven wrote about her four "things she did correctly" when she started doing genealogy research before listing her regrets - see her post in "Alas Regrets, I Knew Them Randy."

So I'll bite at the bit here with my three best "smart moves" - things I think I did correctly - that I've made doing genealogy research, especially in the early years:

1) I found the databases, books records, and research guides at the LDS Family History Library and Family History Center. Along with several excellent, experienced researchers who guided me through the early years (1988-1995) of my genealogy "career." They loved to see me coming because I soaked up what they taught me, I ordered a bunch of microfilms every week, spent plenty of quarters in the copy machines, and was a fervent evangelist for the FHC and its records, despite not being a Mormon. There hasn't been a month in the past 20 years that I haven't been to an FHC, except for the three and four week genealogy vacations we've taken over the years (including one stop at the FHL in Salt Lake City).

2) With my science and engineering education, and a research "bent" I intuitively understood how to do research in genealogy. The "scientific method" works extremely well in genealogy - evaluate, hypothesize, search, obtain, analyze, and recycle the process until you come to a proof or a conclusion (which might be negative). This leads me to seek out resources both online and in repositories and understand the strengths and weaknesses of each type of resource as far as the Genealogical Proof Standard goes.

3) I sought out and found a "genealogy community" early in my research, and have continued seeking colleagues over the years. The Prodigy bulletin boards (I was user MVTR18A - I still see reference to that on some mailing lists!) had a "critical mass" of like-minded researchers - mostly researching New England. I spent hours online in 1992-1994 "talking" to my "genealogy friends" and through the power of the "knowledge of the group" I was able to find many ancestors and the records that proved relationships. Many of my correspondents had their own copies of the Massachusetts town vital record books and willingly shared the information. This habit of sharing information and encouraging "group support" has led to the successful and fun Research Group activities at CVGS and my enthusiasm to help other researchers with their "brick wall ancestors.," It has also led to creating several presentations on the subject for local genealogy societies - sharing my knowledge and experience with others.

There were other "smart moves" -- joining NEHGS and other societies, visiting distant libraries and my genealogy "homes" while on vacation, using genealogy software, attending local society meetings, being active in my local society, posting my research on my web site, blogging (hmmm, maybe not?), reading and participating on the APG and TGF mailing lists, subscribing to Ancestry, etc.

What were your smart moves? Please blog, or comment, about them so that others can learn from your success stories. We learn many things by making mistakes and by having successes, and we should pass these thoughts on to others.

By the way, I tried to find a single word for "smart moves" in my post title, but couldn't think of one - even a word like "smartness" didn't seem right (and sounded too much like smarta$$). The antonyms for "regret" didn't fit either - "shamelessness," "contentment," or "satisfaction."

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