Why Genealogical Experience is Important For Success–

Research and how to conduct a project used to be taught in Colleges–new Freshman were required to take it before (hopefully) writing their first term paper. Sometimes a discipline spent considerable time teaching research techniques. Examples were Journalism and Nursing. Graduates were not complete until they knew the fundamentals of finding information.

My experience includes these basic skills of finding information, since I was a nurse in my first educated life. Then I became a genealogist…

Genealogists think differently. Becoming a specialist–someone who is highly skilled in the specifics of tracing a family tree–requires mastering the craft of fitting people together in families, even if the documents don’t name the parents or don’t tell you where the ancestors came from. The ideal result of searching the records is to discover these essential details–names of the next generation back in time and the places where they came from.

You hope for direct statements of these details. Most of the time, especially building a pedigree in the Southern United States, where there is such extensive record loss, the circumstances of life have to be gleaned from a wide variety of source material with statistical studies of normal life as a guide.

Here’s where experience comes in–what is a normal life? A normal lifespan? What records can serve as substitutes for births and deaths when the actual records are missing? Where can you look for proof of marriage? Over time, the genealogist learns what sources are most likely to answer these questions and where they can

be found most effectively? You learn how to build a bibliography of reliable sources. You acquire your own copies of those items that are absolutely essential for proof. You draft questions and lists of answers for unasked or even unknown questions.

You also learn to pay attention to naming patterns, migrations of specific groups of families, titles and occupations, religious affiliation, routes of travel, and a myriad of other stuff for the areas where the ancestors you trace resided or passed through.

And you learn to recognize and trust inspiration and intuition–that gut-level prompting that comes when you have immersed yourself in the family and its milieu.

Some of these things are difficult to teach–they come from exposure over time to records and people. The novice genealogist, now using computers and the internet, can choose from massive lists of data–by-passing experience. And according to the law of choices, be right at least 50% of the time, is the correct data is available to choose.


It is still to early for most localities, especially for families in the Southern United States, to have enough data in the databases to by-pass experience. Does it matter? Beware. Multiple choice has built-in booby-traps for the unaware! Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS Stay tuned–I think I have mastered the password problems that have plagued my blogs for at least 6 months. And I have much to share.

This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.