Researching totally and completely on your own with no input from other researchers can sometimes be a most inefficient way to locate facts. A vacuum may well be beneficial to getting dust off the floor and for packing spaghetti sauce, but it is not the most efficient way to locate ancestors.
Getting By with a Little Assistance from My Friends
One of the women in the admissions staff at the school where I work has gotten interested in genealogy. After a little talking, it presented we had ancestors from the same county. She provided me with a couple of names and I went looking in my cemetery books for that county and located an important amount of information for her. In studying the surnames she was researching, I noted they were of the identical ethnic origin that I was. I checked the microfilm of some German language newspapers I had and located obituaries for just two of her ancestors from the early 1900s. She also discussed some difficulties she was having with another ancestor and I asked her if she had utilized the Indiana Marriage Index pre-1850 that is available on the net.
We checked it right at her desk and located the marriage date for her ancestors (I was clear to indicate that she needs to discover the original record).
While not every friendship will produce this many results, both parties frequently benefit. This lady’s boss is also curious about genealogy and they too from time-to-time discuss research. It helps to have someone to ask or to ask someone for ideas or suggestions, even if they’re not researching the same family.
And now and again it’s best if they aren’t. Someone totally unfamiliar with the names and situation can bring a new perspective to the issue and doesn’t have any assumptions about the family being researched. The majority of your fellow staff members will not share your concern in genealogy.
A good place to meet individuals who do share your interest, is at your local genealogical society. Attending such meetings may be good and informative, even though your ancestors are not from the area where you currently live. Some societies have “work sessions” or “bring your own problem” from time-to-time at their meetings in lieu of a speaker. Just remember that if it takes you 30 minutes to spell out your trouble that’s long. You want to interest the other person, not bore them to tears. Also refining your problem may even make you resolve it yourself. Local society meetings can be a good way to get research ideas and assistance. Just remember that other members might not be in a position to help you specifically and can’t do your research for you.
Conferences and Workshops
Attending conferences and workshops is another good idea. There may well be speakers talking about research in the areas where you are having difficulty or with the types of problems you are encountering. While the speaker probably won’t be in a position to give you an hour-long discussion of your problem, their presentation should provide useful clues and suggestions. It can be possible to talk with them after their presentation.
Handing them 50 sheets of computerized printouts and saying, “look at these,” is probably NOT a good idea. Pointed, specific questions have the best prospect of getting specific, useful answers. It may be of assistance to write your question down before you go to the workshop. Do not expect one lecture or seminar to make you an expert in a given topic or geographic locality, many lecturers have spent years refining their own research skills. If they aren’t able to answer your question specifically, ask if there is a guide or reference that may be useful. Nearly all presenters have their favorite reference and source books they use to double check themselves when they write or prepare lectures.
Back to School
Another networking option is to take a class or to attend one of that various institutes provided across the country. Even experienced researchers can benefit from a class that might seem “basic.” Most of these institutes have social time, during which most attendees continue to discuss genealogy.
I have had genealogists with many years of research experience and no formal class work or training, taking a “beginning” class. That’s not to imply that all experienced researchers who’ve never taken a class need to. There are many excellent genealogists who are self-trained. Still, experienced researchers, particularly when they aren’t familiar with a wide variety of records benefit from some sort of formal training. Often times, just hearing a different person present material with which we’re already familiar may cause us to formulate new insights and perspectives. There is one math class I’ve taken twice, once while an undergraduate and once a couple of years later as a graduate student. Different instructors presented the material another way and used a different text. Although the same general conceptions were presented, I benefited from the repeated exposure to the material and probably learned more the second time than I did the first.
Again, you might find opportunity to discuss specific research issues with fellow students or instructors during the training.
Another way of connecting with other researchers is to join one of the numerous genealogy listserves that are available for free. There can be other researchers searching the same people or in the same geographic regions as you. Their perspectives and expertise might be of assistance to your own research.
Never Bury Your Head in the Sand
There are occasions when working on your own is a good thing. Often times isolation is needed in order to fully concentrate. Nevertheless, in genealogical research constant isolation is never a great thing. Frequently you will see it essential to collaborate. Fortunately, the web facilitates this collaboration and makes it must quicker than before. It is essential to understand that another researcher might have access to additional records or live in the same area your ancestors did. Together multiple researchers may be able to hire a specialist researcher which might be out of reach financially to them as individuals. Or researchers may wish to order records or materials themselves and then share the outcomes with other people.
Credit Where Credit Is Due
No one likes to be taken benefit of. If someone significantly assists you in your research, give them their due. There are a couple off reasons for this. The first is simple common courtesy. The second reason, slightly more selfish perhaps, is that if you do not, the person who helped you once might not be so prepared to do so again. And you will never know when they might locate additional information you do not have.