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May 3, 2021

20 Traits of a Good Genealogist

Most of us want to be good genealogists. We want to do our best to find our ancestors. We want to find the facts,and know that what we found is accurate.

It's never fun to spend time searching an individual's ancestors and adding them to our family tree only to find out it was the wrong person.

That means we need to be thorough and methodical and cautious. We should not accept an ancestor without verifying and double-checking every clue and document we find.

Here's my list of what I believe are the 10 most important characteristics of a good genealogist.

A good genealogist

1. Finds every document possible on an ancestor. He/she does not stop at census and vital registrations but looks beyond to records such as land records, court records, military records, church records,immigration records, education records, newspaper articles, tax and assessment records, etc. A good genealogist looks for more obscure records such as coffin plates, funeral cards, and other miscellaneous records pertaining to the time and location of his/her search.

2. Learns what records have survived for the location and time period for each ancestor's life. Then learns where those records can be found - online and off.

3. Copies documents exactly as found, not as he/she thinks it should be.

4. Cites sources for all facts found. Citing your sources means others can look up what you have written, and verify for themselves. Sources means you've got proof of some kind to support your fact.

5. Never relies blindly on family stories or online family trees, but searches out a source for each. Verify, verify, verify!

6. Makes an accurate copy of all records found. Carefully notes spelling of names while copying and does not make changes.

7. Keeps a research log of all sources checked, and notes if the search was successful or not.

8. Analyzes each record and document carefully in order to spot clues that may lead to other areas of research and to accurately understand what the record is  and is not.

9. Searches siblings of a challenging ancestor in order to find more documents that may hold clues pertaining to his/her ancestor.

10. Leaves no stone (record) unturned. Extends his/her search to records not found online such as in local courthouses or archives.

A good genealogist also tends to have the following personality traits:

1. Attention to detail
2. Perseverance
3. Loves a challenge
4. Passionate about family history
5. Methodical
6. Organized
7. Thinks outside the box
8. Good analytical skills
9. Thinks of themselves as a detective
10. Is patient. Building a family tree isn't a quick fix

What would you add to the list?


Anonymous said...

Works well with others.
Shares information with other researchers.
Helps other researchers with education, advice and counsel.

Colleen G. Brown Pasquale said...

A person who loves their family & is highly motivated to learn more about their family.

Teresa said...

I am completely incapable of keeping a research log...guess that makes me a bad genealogist! I have tried over, and over, and over again, and just can't do it.

Unknown said...

I, too, find keeping a research log extremely difficult. I have not found a format that works for me.😰