Tips from the Pros: Reality Check, from Sherry Irvine, CG, FSA (Scot)

from Sherry Irvine

Perhaps you don’t think about how many years of researching you may have left, but I do, constantly. It is what is behind my interest in teaching research methods and tutoring online. What do you want to achieve in the next few years and how can you realistically make significant progress? Reality checks, big and small, will get you to your goals.

The better I define what I need to find and the more I know about databases resources, the better my search and the results it produces. Some of you may respond that surfing is fun or playing around in databases wiles away time pleasantly; and you might tell me that my way sounds too much like work. I can understand that, but I like the challenge, the touch of excitement even, in testing my skills.

There are parallels when it comes to working in libraries and archives. Patrons, especially first-time visitors, may be overwhelmed by the volume of material and hardly know where to start. The atmosphere may have a touch of intimidation about it because you have to order documents or books. Once again preparation makes the difference; have your objectives worked out and catalog work done. Armed with a list of likely resources you can immediately begin to use things that you know must be searched in person, and your objectives and your source list will help the staff member give you meaningful guidance if you get stuck.

If I have an hour, or a day, or a week to enjoy researching my family history I can estimate what can be accomplished in the available time. With experience you too can sense the amount of information you might have to sift through and judge how long a search could take.

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2 thoughts on “Tips from the Pros: Reality Check, from Sherry Irvine, CG, FSA (Scot)

  1. Your tip on preparing for what you want to research and have the list of books, material needed to research sure is a great and fun way to do genealogy. I did just that on a day trip recently and am looking forward to doing this again.

  2. If I am searching from home on the interenet, I don’t mind the unstructured approach – costs nothing but time. But if I am going to spend the time and money to visit a remote library or archive, I almost always have a plan that includes a list of books or other specific records to check out. It is very frustrating to stumble across something just as the library is closing that I could have known about earlier with a little preparation. Or to realize the libary does not have the material I need.

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