Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Qualities of a Good Genealogist

Someone recently asked me to name the qualities of a good genealogist. I thought it would be easy to list a bunch of qualifications, but decided it would be wise to think about my answer. After all, this is a serious question.

Genealogists come in all shapes and sizes. Some are old, others are not; some have been researching for years while others can be classified as novice researchers. What are the qualities every one of us needs to become a good genealogist? Ability to be an analytical thinker? Access to needed records? A good record keeper? You probably do need each of these qualities, but I think there are others that are important too.

Here are some of the qualities I think you need to become a good genealogist:

1. You have to be nosy. You must learn as much as possible about your family and everyone with whom they had contact. Don’t be afraid to ask "Why?" Why did a couple move West when the rest of the family stayed in Kentucky? Why did the youngest son join the Union Army while his older brother joined the Confederate Army?

2. You need to be skeptical and persistent. Don’t believe everything relatives tell you about your family. If a relative tells you Queen Elizabeth of England is a second cousin or that Great-Great-Grandpa Jones came to Kentucky with Daniel Boone and it is recorded in the family Bible (location unknown), ask other relatives. Keep asking questions and ask them of as many people as possible. If nothing else, you will become acquainted or re-acquainted with your relatives. Then go check the records to prove or disprove what they told you.

3. You have to be oblivious to dust. This is necessary when using the old record books in the courthouse and archives. If you are allergic to dust, get one of those masks used by folks who have colds or, if not available, tie a scarf around your mouth and nose. Those records are waiting!

4. You have to have a sense of humor. Humor will get you past the shock of finding out Greatgrandma had two children "on the other side of the blanket" or Great Uncle Silas had a run-in with the sheriff. Every family has their secrets and you need not let those secrets stop you in your quest for information on your family. Think of it as a mission!

Now, having these qualities won’t guarantee that you can complete your lineage back to Adam and Eve, but I will guarantee that you will have fun while searching.

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