4    Jan 20139 comments

Family History: Necessary skills

What's required for challenging searches and rewarding finds?

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:

Comments (9) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I have learned how to type German characters .
  2. Hi Shelly, I agree wholeheartedly with you. I've finally learned that finding the clue is the beginning, finding the fact is the reward!
  3. I'd add patience and attention to detail!

    I have become a crusader for documentation, not fairy tale genealogy.

    Have learned basics in three new languages, begun the study of palaeography, and much more of a historian than I even was before.

    Onward To Our Past!
  5. I have had to find a program that will translate from English into German, Danish, French, Slovak, Cyrillic, and more. For a basic translation, I am using googletranslate.com to obtain basic translations.

    I have also found out that a "cousin" is connected to the First Earl of Montrose (Clan Graham) and the First Earl of Northesk (Clan Carnegie).

    There is a "Knight" in a branch of my extended genealogy.

    As there are links to nobility, this the means that I am genealogically connected to the Nobility and Royalty of Europe.

    I have relatives either living or dead in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, other parts of Oceania/Pacific, Africa and maybe the Caribbean. My relatives are Asian, European, Eurasian, South American, North American and African, Kiwi and other nationalities. They are now of many different nationalities.

    I have learnt to navigate Ancestry.com, Australian Archives, Rootsweb.com, myheritage.com and many other sites and institutions relating to genealogy.

    I can talk the legs off a horse when it comes to genealogy. (Australian saying).

    I have also come to the conclusion that here in Australia, that those who arrived here up until the mid to late 20th century are quite possibly all genealogically connected, even if we don't have an actual kinship title.

    It is rewarding to find living relatives or other people who can help you confirm or tell you to reject information.
  6. Have you watched CBS's "PERSON OF INTEREST" on TV? It's one of my favorite programs. Its premise is that a super surveillance system is able to bridge time and location in order to track individuals in order to find out what affected their lives and how those answers influence what happens later in that persons life.
    THAT, to me, is what genealogical research is. Going back in time to discover old truths, to view a person or family in a different time or place. We take the information we find there to find answers to questions like, "What brought him/her to this place at this time?" and then, perhaps we are able to go even further back or forward in time in order to discover and make sense about the truths of our heritage.
  7. Genealogy is like doing a puzzle 'I'll go to bed after I find one more piece'..but then finding that piece just drives me on to find one more and suddenly its 2A.M.!!
    For anyone with Dutch folks in the Groningen province, there is an incredible website www.allegroningers.nl Just type in the last name and have fun!
    I've learned to read Dutch and thank goodness my husband still speaks and reads the language! Happy Hunting.
  8. I have learnt that our forefathers did not tell us "ALL"
  9. I learned that by teaching others of my Ancestry they have become interested in their own

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