As a New Year begins, offering us a chance to jump start our research using every available resource, we are reminded that family history researchers need skills, according to MyHeritage's US genealogy advisor Schelly Talalay Dardashti. We may already have those skills but - more likely - we learn on the job!
Genealogists are strange creatures.
We live for the dead or the missing. We practically vacation in cemeteries - if we can discover where relatives are buried. We hope for the once-in-a-lifetime thrill of visiting “old country" ancestral towns and villages, wherever they might be.
We revel in bettering our investigative skills, similar to those used by detectives, lawyers or police, while piecing together the most complicated of puzzles, analyzing and dissecting clues, theories, stories.
We learn to analyze like psychologists, like historians and to read maps. Our communication skills begin to rival those of therapists and psychiatrists. Out of necessity, we become cryptographers and graphologists to decipher illegible documents, signatures, misspellings.
We become writers, hone the hunting skills of reporters sniffing out scoops, and prime-time interviewers.We teach ourselves to read other alphabets and, bit by bit, learn the essential vocabulary of genealogy in other languages, becoming linguists. At the least, we learn more than what we started with.
Compelled to organize voluminous materials, we earn an MS in “more stuff,” a PhD in “piled higher and deeper,” and a degree in librarianship in our spare time (ha!). We study the design of both historical costume and room interiors to help date our old photographs.
Eventually, we are forced to become architects and builders to solve the storage problems for our records, papers, books, photographs, etc., having outgrown our kitchen and dining room tables, and every other horizontal surface in our homes.
And we haven’t yet mentioned the continual technological revolution in genealogy - which may be more problematic for the technically-challenged, including computers, the internet, scanners, digital this-and-that! Fortunately, online resources - such as those on MyHeritage - make it easier for us to find family and records.
Despite this difficult workload, I don’t know of a genealogist, amateur or professional, who would give up the frequently challenging and the most rewarding achievements of a complicated search.
To paraphrase an American advertising campaign of long ago: “Try it, you’ll like it!”
What skills have you acquired during your family history research?
Have you learned a new language or to decipher a new alphabet?
What skills mentioned above were most useful in your research?
We'd like to know, so share them in the comments below.
Search for your ancestors: