01 August 2016
I do a lot of thinking when I am working in my gardens. One day I was thinking that gardening is like genealogy. You grow and gather when gardening. You grow and gather in family history.
I started researching my ancestors with very little knowledge of what I was doing. I would jump from one web page to another and just grab all the information on my family that I could. I didn't save where I got the information from. I didn't evaluate the information, I just gathered it!
I wasn't happy researching this way. I would look at my research and think, "Now, where did I get this from?" It led to a lot of frustration and confusion because I could not go back and find the information I had gathered so carelessly. Was this Jonathan, Sr. or Jonathan, Jr.? Who knew?
I decided a do over was needed. I decided I needed to get serious about my research and do a good job with it. If I was going to spend hours and hours of researching I wanted to be proud of my work. I researched genealogy software and decided on Roots Magic. I checked how-to books out of the library, I read online how-to articles, I attended workshops, I joined my local genealogical society and I started watching webinars. I started growing as a researcher.
The more knowledge I gained the more I grew as a researcher. I learned about how to conduct solid research, how to analyze sources, information and evidence. I learned about the Genealogical Proof Standard, I even printed a "Does It Meet the GPS?" card and placed it on my desk. I started a blog! I learned a lot about genealogy.
There has been discussion in the past about who can call themselves a genealogist and I don't want to get into that controversy, but Merriam-Webster defines a genealogist as a person who traces or studies the descent of persons or families. I believe this definition should be taken a step further and add "using sound research practices."
I am proud to say I am a genealogist. I didn't become one overnight. It has taken years to get to the point I am at. I am no longer a gatherer. I save the record and the source for everything! No more wondering where I got that document. I have grown as a researcher over the past ten years. Does that mean that I no longer continue to grow. No, but now I am growing as a genealogist.
I still read books and articles, attend workshops, and watch webinars. I am still a member of my local society and three others. I am President of my local society. I have taken the knowledge I have obtained and have spoken to societies. I am on the board of the Michigan Genealogical Council. I am continuing to grow, the difference is that I am doing it as a genealogist. How about you? What type of family history researcher are you?