Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Genealogical Journey of a 30-Something

A few weeks ago, James Tanner of Genealogy's Star posted about the Genealogy Age Gap. His post asked what the genealogy community could do to include more young people. It had a slightly negative slant to it about his hope for the younger generation and their ability to be competent genealogists. It caused a lively discussion in the Comments section, and Elyse (a 20-something genealogist) wrote a rebuttal post titled "Young People Aren't Interested in Genealogy?" This topic has always interested me, as I've always considered myself one of the younger genealogists and quite frankly, I had no idea there were any others until I discovered the blogging community about four years ago.

I began my journey when I was about 12 years old. I was somewhat rebellious, and my paternal grandmother thought I needed a hobby. She was interested in genealogy, and I was always asking her questions about her family, so she suggested we visit the local genealogy library in Lake Charles, Louisiana. This was around 1993-94, before the Internet really became popular with the general public. When we got to the library, we quickly realized most of their sources were for Louisiana, and only my paternal grandfather's family was from Louisiana. But, hey, it was a start. The librarians were so excited that a young person was interested in genealogy. They and other library patrons told me about citing my sources, but of course, I did not listen. Who had time for that? I just wanted to know who my ancestors were. I was able to go back several generations on my paternal grandfather's line and over the next four years or so, my grandmother and I made several trips to the library to explore my paternal grandfather's extended and collateral lines. My main sources for research were several books of Southwest Louisiana Catholic church sacramental record abstracts and a few books on Acadian family lines. It never even occurred to me at the time to order copies of the church records. I didn't even know the difference between primary and secondary sources. Being so young, I was obviously unable to travel to research any other sides of my family, considering they were from Oklahoma and Michigan.

I discovered the Internet for genealogy research when I was about 16 years old around 1997. My main discoveries were WorldConnect family trees and Family Tree Maker trees published online. This is how I first started researching my maternal lines and my paternal grandmother's family. I also used the online trees to discover more information on my paternal grandfather's line without having to visit the library. At this point, I started using Family Tree Maker and started copying and pasting all the unsourced info into the software. Aside from family trees, I discovered and started to dabble in ordering vital records from Michigan. This was probably my first experience with primary sources found outside the family (I had a few vital records that my grandmothers had, such as my great-grandfather's death certificate). I also visited a courthouse in Michigan while I was in college. From the time I was 16 until I was about 23, my research was very sporadic, as high school and college took precedence in my life.

Right before my 24th birthday (c. 2005) is when I REALLY started to become more serious about genealogy. Of course, it depends how you define "serious." I guess you could say I started spending  more time on it. I updated Family Tree Maker and started to actually cite my sources (it only took 12 years). I subscribed to that year and discovered census records. I also started ordering more vital records for my Michigan ancestors. My research slowed down a little in 2006 while I was in grad school.

After grad school, I switched over to Legacy Family Tree in 2007. Instead of importing my FTM file, I started over because of all the unsourced info I had in FTM. However, I was still copying and pasting those unsourced family trees in Legacy. The only difference was that I was actually citing those unsourced family trees as sources. Silly me.

I discovered genealogy blogs in January 2009 and quickly started my own. This is when I really started to feel part of a genealogy community. I also learned to stop citing those trees as sources. Instead, I started copying and pasting the info into Notes for further research, along with a reference to the website. I started trying to follow Elizabeth Shown Mills' citation examples in Evidence Explained. Since fall 2009, I've been cleaning up sources that I finally started to cite back in 2005. My original citations were fairly elementary and when I switched to RootsMagic in fall 2009, some of them got jumbled. I've also been moving the info from unsourced trees to the Notes section for individuals.

Currently, I probably spend about 2 hours a day during the week on genealogy research. A lot of  my research is done online at FamilySearch and, as well as a few other sites. On the weekends, I spend about 4 hours a day (or more). I don't do a lot of traveling, though I occasionally go to the Louisiana State Archives or the local genealogy library here in Baton Rouge. I also visit the local Family History Center from time to time. I try to fit in research at the library and courthouse when I visit cousins in Michigan, but the living take priority so I don't always get as much done as I'd like. My dream is to buy a summer house in Michigan when I retire and do my research. I can't wait to retire so I can spend more time on genealogy research.

Overall, I think I've matured a lot in my research since my early days. I am curious whether or not most researchers go through these phases. I probably stayed in the earlier phases longer than those who start out older. With the advent of the Internet, I also think the beginning stage has probably been revamped. People are no longer limited to their local resources. I seem to have matured faster since my involvement in blogging.

1 comment:

  1. I can relate to your story... Ten out of the 17 years that I have been researching my family history had been very sporadic. For the past 4 years, I have been working very hard at finding my ancestors and citing my work. I am 46 years old... and no one my age, that I associate with seem to be interested in genealogy.