Collaborative Family History

January 21, 2009

The Beginning Genealogist

Filed under: Collaboration, Genealogy, Research — becky @ 1:40 pm

I am new to be writing on this blog, so I will introduce myself.  My name is Becky and I am Michael Martineau’s wife.  It was a few years ago that Mike became interested in genealogy and his family’s history.  So we went to some classes and dutifully filled out our pedigree charts and family group sheets.  We each contacted our respective families to gather information about ancestors.

Mike has very active family organizations for both sides of his family.  He contacted his father’s side and was given a family name to research then sent on his way (or something like that).  I have the exact opposite situation.  My mom sent me copies of what she had from her genealogy attempts some 30 years earlier.  There wasn’t much to go on.

So, we both ended up in the same boat – we each had a name to research and no clue what to do next.  And this brings me to the point of this blog – once a brand new genealogist has a name to research how do they know what to do next?  There is a whole new vocabulary to learn and resources to learn about – what is a GEDCOM?, why can’t I find the 1890 US federal census?, who cares about land records?  There are things in the genealogy culture that everyone seems to know, but must be learned by each person at some point.

This learning curve is a huge detriment to those who want to get involved but don’t have a lot of time to learn how to conduct research before they can even start researching.  I know many people who only have a few hours a week to spare for genealogy, but since they don’t know how to get started and don’t have anyone to really walk them through it, those precious few hours are given to an easier project with less learning curve.

I believe this is one of the most important problems that Family Pursuit addresses.  Research Projects was designed specifically to address and overcome the learning curve and lack of time.  Through a research project, someone who is more experienced can slowly teach a new genealogist by assigning them a single task instead of a single individual.  An example of that task could be: “Find John Doe in each federal census between 1860 and 1910”.  Specific instructions can then be written to explain how to do this.  For example, “Log on to HeritageQuest (free at most libraries) and search one census at a time.  The 1890 census was destroyed by fire, so don’t waste your time searching for it.  Create a separate extraction for each census.  I think John was living in New Jersey in 1860 and was about 25, so start there.”  In this way, a new researcher can make a meaningful contribution with his/her 2 hrs/wk that is available and also be learning how to do research.  The experienced researcher can get the help needed while not having to spend a great deal of time teaching.  Discussion posts are available for questions or additional instruction and every change can be rolled back and undone if it was a mistake.

This is actually my favorite part of the whole website.  I have used many Research Projects to get my mom and brother involved.  We are spread across the country and all very busy, but the research is slowly getting done and it is all recorded for those times when we have to leave it for a few months.  It is a great tool to help those in our family.  I would encourage anyone who is experienced to try to remember the learning curve and to utilize this tool to help out the beginners in their family.

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