At a seminar in 2013, Lorel Kapke spoke with a genealogist about his or her thoughts on research, techniques, education, and software. Below is a summary of that conversation. She is hoping it will help other researchers.
Genealogist: I enjoyed the Seminar last weekend, but I wished the topics hadn’t focused so much on how to use the Internet. The Internet is a genealogical tool, but that’s all. It can be equated to transportation. I could fly to Las Vegas, or take my car, or a bus, or I could even walk. How I get there won’t have any impact on what I do or learn once I arrive.
Lorel: I’ve been frustrated with my on-line research and glad to hear the internet is not the be-all/end-all for us researchers! I did attend RootsTech but felt it was a lot of gadgets and gizmos.
Genealogist: RootsTech has an agenda. They are in the business of providing gadgets and gizmos, not genealogy. I know that many so-called genealogists do nothing but troll the internet looking for other people’s family trees. Their own work is not sourced or verified. Then they publish what they’ve found, and hundreds of other trollers pick up the same errors. I contacted Ancestry recently because someone had copied an entire page from my website verbatim, and the only thing they didn’t copy was my copyright notice. Still waiting for their response.
Lorel: I attended both RootsTech conferences (with Sort Your Story) for a very specific reason. That conference promotes gadgets and gizmos to support genealogists and researchers. This is something I envisioned when creating Sort Your Story, a simple organizational tool.
Genealogist: Simple organizational tools and basic hands-on genealogy will always be needed. This should be one focus of any type of training. Meetings where people can get together and discuss their successes and problems are also very useful. Beginners gain useful knowledge listening to more experienced researchers.
Lorel: I could not agree more!!!
Genealogist: There are good training courses available. Family Search has a video series on a variety of topics and those are free on their website. There are Wiki’s for just about every subject you can think of and they are excellent. NGS has a Home Study Course that gives a good foundation for doing research and analysis, and the price is not out of reach. The field is rich with free learning opportunities.
Lorel: I never thought of the FamilySearch Wiki, I’ll give it a try! I’ll also review the FamilySearch video series…again!
Genealogist: I read a lot of blogs, mostly to find stuff to put on Facebook. I like to read The Legal Genealogist, because her topics focus on the law as it relates to genealogy. When you read a deed or other official document from the 17th or 18th century, the toughest thing is to understand are the legal terms. What a term means today may not be the same as what it meant 200 years ago. And there are lots of terms that aren’t used any more.
Lorel: Another great source, The Legal Genealogist…. thanks!
Genealogist: Family blogs are a good idea. They are great for sharing family stories or research successes or even research problems. You can write as much or as frequently as you like and it’s online forever. So 50 or 100 years from now, you might be helping some poor futuristic genealogist break down his brick wall or forcefield or whatever they’ll be calling it then. How cool is that?
You can create your own blog for free using Google Blogger. My only concern would be that some of the family secrets might get out on the web, and once that happens there’s no way to pull them back in. Oh, well, that stuff happened, even before we had internet.
Lorel: Family blogs are a great idea and I’ll check it out! This may be the perfect time to begin one of my own family blogs as I’ve been uploading my photos to Ancestry.com and have research material that may help “break” a brick wall or two for someone else!
Genealogist: Adding geography and archaeology to Sort Your Story is a great idea. I use maps all the time. One of the easiest things to do is to build a timeline of historical events within your ancestor’s lifetime, and if possible, make it local so you can see which events he/she might have participated in. I use Wikipedia a lot for stuff like this.
Lorel: Yep, you may not have had the opportunity to view my family timeline at the seminar …. yet, these timelines where only a “small piece” of each of my ancestors lives. This week I updated my timeline cards and sent each group to my family back east. I’ll continue to create a timeline booklet to include as much info as possible. I looked up Newspaper.com to find local information within our area to add to my timeline.
Genealogist: Genealogy research requires a big investment of time. I think that’s why it’s mostly retired folks who can pursue it. I would like to see it taught in high school as a humanities course, and in college as a history course.
Lorel: Regarding education, I could not agree more. Jennifer Holik, my Sort Your Story blogger and professional genealogist, has taught youth at local libraries and genealogy societies in Illinois. She has great enthusiasm for her work! This is the perfect time to introduce Sort Your Story to our local schools as it’s a simple tool kids can use to help them organize their “local historical, geographical data” and include a family story or two. They can then create their own timeline to share.
As you can see, there are many avenues for genealogical education, sharing information, gathering information, and using technology, gadgets, and gizmos to push your genealogy research further. Have you had any conversations similar to this at conferences, workshops, or in online groups? What do you think about it all?
© 2013 Lorel Kapke, Sort Your Story
This is a continuation from a post in June about hiring a professional genealogist.
Some of the comments I’ve received from both professional researchers (getting paid) and those who are not professional researchers (not getting paid) are similar.
I feel like a novice when I walk into a new records office or repository even though I’ve been researching for more than 5 or 10 years!
This can be true for anyone. When you walk into a new place to look for records, a place you have never been, there can be a feeling of insecurity. Do I know what I’m doing? Will anyone help me? The same can apply to a place you walk into that you haven’t for months or years or where the records are difficult to use. For example, in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, locating deeds is a difficult process. I had to write my own guide on how to navigate these 10-15 steps before I could even look at the deeds on microfiche. They are organized by the Torrens system not a Grantor and Grantee index system. When I haven’t been in that office for many months to look for records, I feel like a novice starting over. I ask for help, use my guide, and go through the process again.
Should I hire someone to look for records in a repository or should I just order the records sight-unseen?
Every repository is different. Some will let you examine records before purchasing them, others will not. If you are on a budget like many of us, see if the Family History Center has the records you seek on microfilm. Chances are $7.50 a roll to pull a record is cheaper than ordering it through the State Department of Health or Vital Records office. If you need quite a few from different rolls of film, see if those rolls exist in that locale and if there is a researcher there who can pull them for you. Again, you need to weigh the costs.
Another thing to consider when you may have to order records sight-unseen is to look for indexes. Every index as you know, was not created equally. The way you view a name may not be the same way I do. And just one mis-stroke of a typewriter can change a name from one thing to another. FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, libraries, repositories, and other resources have indexes. Search them out and look for more than one for the same record set. See what you find. It just might be that you discover an index that has a few more fields of information such as a street address or name of a parent that tells you this is or is not likely the person you seek.
I feel like I’m wasting a researcher’s time if I hire him or her and she can’t find anything for me.
You are not wasting anyone’s time. By searching for those records and finding they do not exist, for whatever reason, is a result. This needs to be noted and sourced in your research reports and database. Noting this also helps you in the future when you wonder, ‘Did I look into that resource?’
Have you worked with a professional genealogist? What was your experience? What did you find difficult or easy about the process? We’d love to hear from you!
© 2013, Lorel Kapke, Sort Your Story