If you are like me, cousins regularly contact you wanting to help research common ancestors.
Sometimes, they have great research skills and are a huge asset in your ancestral quest. At other times, the opposite is true, but their desire to participate can’t be denied and should be encouraged.
What is the balance point where the impact on our precious research time in teaching them how to do genealogy research and maybe even how to install and use genealogy software far eclipses any help they will provide?
We want to help others get started in genealogy. It is a very enjoyable activity that keeps minds active, expands our social network and helps us know more about ourselves through the discovery of our ancestors, their traits, their trials and their lives. Of course we want to share that fun with others.
Give your ‘new’ cousin a quick quiz to determine their research skills. If their skill level is sufficient to cross the threshold into your research cousins team, let them in. If not, direct them to sites where they can obtain the minimal skill set needed to not be a resource drain on the team.
Case in point. A distant cousin recently sent me a note stating that they now had time in their life to devote to genealogy research. After looking through my site, they found that I had included the name of their great grandfather. "We must be related. I want to help you find our common ancestors."
Before contacting them to ask about their research skills, I sent them a copy of two birth records that I’d found on our common family earlier that day. Within an hour, a response arrived in my mailbox.
"Thanks for the papers you sent. What are they?"
Ten minutes later: "Are birth records important?"
Thirty minutes later: "I can’t read the writing on the papers you sent. It appears to be English but who can read old handwriting?"
Forty minutes later: "I’m writing down all of information about my ancestors that I’ve found on your site. Do you use a binder? Where are you getting your forms?"
Obviously, they failed to qualify to join the cousins research team at this point. The questions rapidly evolved into what software to use, how to use it and even how to install it.
Time is precious for all of us. Becoming a permanent help desk for this cousin isn’t helping me achieve my own research goals nor those of the cousins team. I offered a little assistance, told them of my limited time to provide support and referred them to the online research training available on several websites.
Software: I’ve been a beta tester for Legacy for years and know the great training videos that Geoff Rasmussen has created for Legacy users, so the first bullet item said go here and get Legacy. Next Step: watch the training videos online. If you like the program, buy the full version and the training videos. Geoff has included so many genealogy research helps in them, that the research content alone is worth the price of the CD’s. The training that pertains to unlocking enormous power of Legacy is just an added benefit.
Research: In addition to the research training on the Legacy disks, there are a number of great web sites that offer free training and training videos online.
My two favorites are:
FamilySearch Research Courses. The training is great, covers numerous countries, skills and languages. We’d all benefit from reviewing the information here.
BYU Independent Study – Free Family History / Genealogy courses. Excellent courses including testing to confirm that you are absorbing the content. French, German, Huguenot, Scandinavian research along with vital, military and family records courses are on the along with others. Again, we can all benefit from taking this training.
My note asked them to complete the training, and then do some research independent of the cousins team to practice the tools and skills they’ve learned and then shoot me a note.
We would like to have them on the cousins team, but as a contributing member. There is nothing wrong with being a beginner, but beginners have to be sensitive to the ‘free cycles’ available in the the lives of others to help them.
When I wear my genealogy teaching hat for the courses I teach, I include time to help class members with questions from A – Z, but the available time allocated to that persona is already very busy.
I concluded by suggesting that they should also find a local genealogical or family history society or a church sponsored genealogy class and attend. Folks there welcome newbies and have purposely set aside time to help them.
Joining in the ancestral quest fray is easy for anyone, as long as we pay the initial fee of studying the basics ourselves so we can understand the terms and can ask semi-intelligent questions of the wonderful folks who will be our mentors.