Thursday, January 5, 2017

Which Traits Will Help Genealogists in the New Year?

Genealogists share many personality traits but, in other ways, we're very different. I'm an introvert who could research for hours (and days!) without speaking to anyone, while others are more outgoing and need interpersonal interaction. Are there particular traits that will help us succeed at solving our family tree mysteries this year? Here are some that come to mind:

Accuracy / Attention to Detail - It's important to take time to review information before adding it to your family tree database and to include sources for all facts. Typos can lead to a mother giving birth after she died and other strange facts you've probably seen in online trees. Since facts are the foundation for building and expanding your family tree, accuracy is critical to your success as a researcher.

Commitment - Genealogy is a long-term project, and you certainly can't set a deadline since it won't ever be done. Individual success stories are often the result of hours and hours of research, and researching your entire family tree is a life-long commitment.

Creativity - Some family branches and their records are straight-forward, but others may take some detective work. Tapping into your creative mind can help in looking at a genealogy issue in a new way, which can lead to finding the answer you're looking for.

Curiosity - Questions about your family got you started in genealogy, and that curiosity continues to be important as you uncover facts. Why was a person missing from a household? Where were siblings and other relatives? When did someone arrive in the U.S.? What religion did a person practice? Asking questions and finding the answers may provide details to advance your research.

Focus - We all know how easy it is to get sidetracked while researching! The path to success is quicker if you can identify your research problem, locate the sources that may hold the answer, and then stay focused while you review the records. Jumping from collection to collection or person to person in a random manner may be more fun but won't be as effective.

Generosity - I've found that the genealogy community is very generous. Many have helped others by blogging, teaching in the community, posting photos of headstones, transcribing records, etc. Asking questions and learning from others will undoubtedly lead to success with your research, and paying it forward will help someone else.

Humility - We all make mistakes, and successful researchers are those who can admit it, fix it, and learn from it.

Patience - Although many online resources can provide instant gratification by showing scanned images in seconds, there are still times when you'll need to wait. Whether it's a response to an email, a record or reel you've ordered, or getting that brick wall to crumble, good things often come if you're willing to wait.

Persistence - Many ancestors are elusive characters who stay hidden for years. Records can contain inaccurate information or don't specify a key detail, so you'll often need to keep digging. Don't give up and you'll find success!

Post a comment if there are other traits you would add to this list. And good luck with your genealogy research in 2017!


  1. I was glad to recognize many of the traits you mentioned (I, too am an introvert and would love to research non-stop!); I can see that I need to be careful about the need for focus and the need for patience!
    Thank you for this post, and for the many other posts you have shared which have been particularly helpful to me as I research my Grandma's ancestors who came to Pittsburgh from Germany & Ireland!
    I live in Oregon, but am hoping to visit Pittsburgh this coming summer - that would be such a treat!!

    1. Thank you for your comment--I always love to hear from you! I definitely hope you make it to Pittsburgh. One of my favorite trips was hiking in Oregon, so it's great to hear that's your home. Have a great year of research!


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