Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A "Real Genealogist"

This will be an occasional blog, charting my way through the land of genealogy.

Someday I want to be a "real genealogist." (No, I don't mean a professional genealogist.)

According to my personal definition:
1. A real genealogist is organized. In contrast, my papers, my searches, and my thoughts wander all over the place.
2. A real genealogist is disciplined. In contrast, I jump from goal to goal, leaving other searches up in the air. (Sometimes the jump is because you get a new, hot clue and you pursue it at least long enough to be sure that you can get back to the lead. I believe that "real genealogists" act this way. But the "real genealogist" has a plan and gets back to it. I have a plan, but I don't stick to it for one whole day.)
3. A real genealogist cites sources, and doesn't post without sources. OK, I'm almost a "real genealogist" here. I do make note of my sources; I am even organizing my citation styles so that they will be consistent with each other (all census citations are similar, all birth certificates are similar, and so on). And my public postings have at least one source to verify the listing. The trouble is that the one source may be only a census or a statement on a death certificate.
4. A real genealogist evaluates evidence, adhering to Genealogical Proof Standards before posting information. In contrast, I don't even understand the path to this goal. Some things are clear: a death certificate has some "good" evidence (such as the physician's statement) and some "hearsay" evidence (such as place of birth of the deceased). Or the fact that census information is mainly hearsay. Please notice that I'm avoiding the terms "Direct and Indirect" evidence, "Original and Derivative" source, "Primary and Secondary" information; when I have these terms in front of me, I have a fair idea of the meaning. But we're at a recognition stage of knowledge, not at recall, let alone at an ability to have these decisions as part of my working tools. (I had to go to my copy of Genealogical Proof Standard by Christine Rose to be sure that I had the correct terms.) What is more, even if I were skilled with these steps, I'm currently completely unsure as to how to used them in evaluating the validity of my data.
5. A real genealogist gets results. In contrast, — well examine the "in contrasts" in points 1 to 4 above.

I am comparatively new to genealogy. I find it both fascinating and frustrating. (I've been heard to declare that genealogy was invented in order to ensure that we would never run out of being frustrated.) The comparative newness explains some of the "in contrasts" mentioned above. But I'm afraid that I have a grasshopper brain. Also, my pattern appears to be periods of intense concentration followed by "burnout" which causes me to embrace another activity with equal intensity for a while. These personal traits will probably be with me for the rest of my life; I just need learn to work effectively within this pattern.

What should I do about the comparative newness? Well, learn. I have taken several steps in this direction; I belong to my local genealogical society (Genealogical Society of Central Missouri or gscm), to the St. Louis Genealogical Society, and to the Wabash Genealogical Society  (my father's Indiana roots). I attend the meetings of the two Missouri groups, and learn many things from these meetings. I have "met" Dae Powell and Jayne McCormick through their GENTREK presentations at GenealogyWise. Through these presentations I have learned of books, of other Genealogists, and of specific techniques. Genealogy Wise has special groups where I can ask questions, and an active chat room where more experienced genealogists can give me research points. I subscribe to and to; I also do online searches through I have begun to read Blogs (a suggestion from Jayne and Dae), and I've begun to attend Webinars more systematically. I believe that all these activities will help me grow in my ability to become a real genealogist.

This blog will be another approach to growth. (Thanks to "Dear Myrtle," whose blog today, led me to her first blog on this subject, and therefore to this first posting. Thank you, Myrt!)

My father used to drive me wild, by saying "Unexpressed is half thought!" (When I got older, I used to retaliate with "…thoughts that lie too deep for words …). But my father had a point. If I discuss specific frustrations in this blog, I may begin to solve them, simply by clarifying the problem. I hope that the blog will catch the attention of others, who may then add comments that can help me get closer to becoming a "real genealogist."

If you like this idea, keep up with me — and tell any friend who likes genealogy. One thing I HAVE learned in the past two to three years, is that Genealogists love to help each other.

Here's to facing our frustrations,
Frustrated Sue


  1. I was interested in your comment about periods of intense concentration followed by 'burnout'. In my case it is 'periods of intense concentration followed by periods of wanting to continue but not having enough free time'. :-)

  2. I just love your post. Been there many, many, many times and I will be there again and again and again. It just goes with the territory.

  3. I love this post as well. I have been in the same spot as you, many, many times and feel your frustration. It does come with the territory.

  4. Welcome to the Geneabloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    Author of "Back to the Homeplace"
    and "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"

  5. Found you through Geneabloggers.

    I'm so glad you've decided to start blogging about your journey. You'll probably find you have much in common with other genealogists and family historians.

  6. Very well put. I especially like "grasshopper brain." It's what I have.

  7. Hey, wait a minute! you just described me ... :-)
    I think we all can sidetracked when we stumble upon something new and exciting. But, although not critical in blogging, always cite your sources in your database /genealogy program.
    Theresa (Tangled Trees

  8. Welcome to the geneablogging community!


  9. I feel your frustrations, especially finding the time to concentrate on it. The prompts help, but then trying to keep up with the blogs, and working on my family tree, there times I feel I am stretched thin.

    Let's share this journey together.

  10. I can relate to your article so much - I too have a grasshopper brain, darting from one thing to another. Also I can have a massive blitz and my brain goes into overactive drive. January was a case in point when I managed a lot of blog postings - then a slight lull (emphasis on slight),until the Geneablogger prompts give further inspiration. The problem is that blogging can sometimes overtake researching. Join the clan!!

    Susan at

  11. I want to be a real genealogist too - I have lots of good intentions but I'm too easily distracted by an interesting snippet of information on a completely different person/family from the one I'm supposed to be researching, or an interesting blog posting. Now, what was I supposed to be doing...

  12. I love it! We should all strive to be real genealogists.


  13. Wonderful Post, thought you were talking about me! Especially loved the 'Grasshopper Brain', so me. I always feel guilty when I jump among the many finds. I think my biggest frustration comes when I get distracted by NON blood relatives. I was posting copies of my Step Grandmother's headstone, with her husbands (she had 4). All of a sudden I was checking Ancestry for their families, now why did I do that? They were not even blood related to my brother. Still enjoyed it until I realized what I was doing 3 hours later ~laughs~ I will be following your blog, as I need to know someone else is researching as I do. Good luck in your research.

  14. Well said! I think you will find that you have your numbers 1 through 4 in common with other genealogists who have been researching for quite a while. I, for one, have been researching on and off since 1990. I'm not perfectly organized (although with DearMYRTLE's monthly organization checklists, I'm working on it), and I also suffer from "grasshopper brain." I try to cure this by concentrating on one or two individuals at a time until I run out of leads. Notice, I said "try." Keep it up and soon you'll be just as crazy as the rest of us! :)