Every conference is a learning experience and today was no exception. My local genealogy society sponsored four presentations by Dr. Thomas Jones, PhD, CG, FASG, FUGA and one break out session by a local genealogist.
I’ve lost count of how many in person and online presentations I’ve attended given by Tom. In every one, he always makes the most difficult scenarios seem easy to resolve. I enjoying following his logic in drawing a conclusion based on the records he has or has not found.
The program today started with the beginner level, progressed quickly and then ended with an upbeat – you can (and should) do this approach. Here’s my four biggest take aways that can help your research:
- Tom lamented that he wasted nearly 20 years at the beginning of his family history career by not reading genealogical journals. I made the exact same mistake. If you’re a newbie, you will benefit from reading articles published by the National Genealogical Society, The American Genealogist, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, New England Historic and Genealogical Society, your state societies and more. No, the articles probably aren’t going to help you name your brick wall ancestor but they will provide the tools that others used to discover what you’re having difficulty locating. No excuse if being a member of all of these societies aren’t in your budget; your local public library probably has a subscription. If not, ask for a year’s membership as a birthday gift. Find a friend interested in genealogy and each of you become a member of one and share the journals. Post on Craig’s List or go on eBay and search if someone is selling their collection. I’m trying to be a good environmental steward so I’ve stopped getting hard copies in the mail and read the articles online. When I did get the paper version, I always donated to my local library when I was done. Pass yours on, too!
- Tom reminded us to “consider everything and trust nothing.” Personally, I think that’s good advice not just for genealogy. He was referring to online family trees and in print family genealogies. It’s not too difficult to tell which are well researched. It is a must to check out the citations to confirm the accuracy.
- “Inconvenience is not a reason for drawing a conclusion; get as close as you can to original records.” I’m blending Tom’s quote with the breakout session I attended on England and Wales records. I do some, but not a whole lot, of English and Welsh research. I wasn’t aware that the British equivalent to the U.S. National Archives has only 5% of their records online. I don’t know what the latest percentage estimates are for U.S. records but whatever the amount, not everything is available from the comfort of your home computer. True, it’s not always convenient to have to do boots on the ground but it is necessary.
- “Gather the stories you’ve been told, write them down and share them.” Definite words of wisdom! For my long time readers, you know that was one of the reasons why I started blogging. I wanted a place to connect with my far flung relatives by sharing the stories passed down to me by my maternal grandmother. Every family has heartwarming tales and whispered lore. Write it down, check it out and pass it on before it’s been forgotten. Your descendants will be so thankful you did!
Last, as promised, here’s a shout out to one of my New Port Richey followers that happened to be in line in front of me today. It was awesome meeting you in person. Happy Hunting!