Go ahead. Letâ€™s sound off. Iâ€™d like to know how you learned to conduct family history research. Did you take a class, read a book, or follow an online tutorial? As you know there are many opportunities to become a more experienced researcher. Hereâ€™s what made a difference in my life:
I began my childhood inquiries into the past by asking questions of the oldest person I knew–my only living grandparent, my Dadâ€™s mother. Armed with a pencil and paper I tried out my interviewing technique. Where were you born? Who were your parents? At one point she sighed and said â€œLetâ€™s talk about your grandfatherâ€™s side of the family instead of mine.â€ When I persisted she redirected me. Iâ€™ve since learned the reasons behind her reticence but it took decades to uncover those family skeletons. My mom always supported my research driving me to town halls and libraries. At some point she stopped being my personal chauffeur and began researching her own family.
Friends and Colleagues
A network of friends and colleagues interested in the same topic create a built-in audience for family history questions. After all, having someone to talk to about your brick wall helps you get through the frustration. If you donâ€™t know anyone in your social group who loves genealogy (gasp!) youâ€™ll find them by attending a local meeting at a historical and genealogical society. While I didnâ€™t know any kids whose hobby was genealogy, I began meeting like-minded folks when I began working after college.
What genealogy book inspired you to look further into your family history? Thatâ€™s an easy question for me to answer. After a librarian steered me towards Gilbert Doaneâ€™s Searching for Your Ancestors I saved my allowance to buy a copy. At eight it was dense reading, but I was persistent and I followed his advice. Over the years there have been other books and even a few online resources that helped teach me more than the basics. Other than Doaneâ€™s tome on genealogy Iâ€™ve read or used many of the reference books currently in print and a few no longer available new. A personal favorite is Genealogical Research in New England, edited by Ralph J. Crandall. It occupies a spot in my office within reach for any New England research quandaries I encounter. There are newer books and guides, but this slim volume is still valuable.
The great thing about genealogy is that there is always something new to learn, but even older guidebooks can help you understand the records. Building a personal research library is an expensive pursuit so I buy selectively and use my public libraryâ€™s interlibrary loan program for the rest.
Even though Iâ€™ve been involved in genealogy for decades that doesnâ€™t mean I donâ€™t attend workshops and lectures presented by specialists. Many local historical societies offer classes on family history and a few community adult education programs do the same. If you have a particular need, such as learning a language, then try a college or university. Online classes through the National Institute of Genealogical Studies is one route.
Teleconferences and those with an interactive online component are rapidly gaining in popularity. You can find something to fit your educational needs and your budget. Professional advancement is also within reach if you travel to Samfordâ€™s Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research or attend a Professional Management Conference from the Association of Professional Genealogists (http://www.apgen.org) at the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference. Check out the links to other educational venues using Cyndiâ€™s ListÂ and the category â€œEducation.â€ I believe that learning is lifelong so I continue to study whenever I can.
What About You?
So letâ€™s get back to you. Iâ€™m sure that each and every one of you has a personal story to tell. Iâ€™ve told you about my life. Itâ€™s your turn. Share your thoughts on how youâ€™ve become a genealogist in the Comments sectionÂ here onÂ the blog.
Maureen Taylor is The Photo Detective. She was recently profiled in the Wall Street Journal. â€œWatch and Listenâ€ to her solve cases at www.photodetective.com