Question: Do I stop my research so that my children can find names that I would find over the course of the next years? What if I stop doing my research to help them find what I would have found but we wind up not finding what I would have found because we waited too long?Of course, this issue is entirely confined to that segment of the youthful genealogists whose parents, to some extent, have been involved in genealogical research. But it also applies to youth who find that other members of their family have also done extensive research. In my own situation, several of my daughters have become involved in genealogical research, the difference being that my daughters are all married and have their own families. One of my granddaughters had the experience of exploring her own pedigree in FamilySearch.org's Family Tree program during a youth activity and was able to trace the lines all the way "back to Adam." Although, she and her friends were impressed by all these names, the concept that the online Family Tree went all the way back to Adam was very likely a discouragement that any further work could be done.
Devon includes several suggested alternatives to involving the youth directly in genealogical research in these situations where extensive research has already been done. In my own case, all of my daughters who are involved are capable researchers in their own right and all have college degrees and extensive research backgrounds. They are able to work on complex research issues which have defied solution over the years. This would not be the case with a much younger, inexperienced researcher.
The question asked by Devon also raises the fundamental issues that keeps returning about how to bridge the gap between creating an interest in family history and acquiring the skills necessary to do formal historical research. Obviously, if any member of the family, including the youth, were to be in the position of being one of the very first people in the family to become involved in family history, the first few generations of research could be accomplished much easier. For anyone living today in an industrialized country with access to the Internet, researching the first two or three generations of a family is not likely to pose a challenge except in situations where special circumstances exist such as adoptions, multiple marriages, and disruption of the family by wars or other similar circumstances.
One challenge that is seldom discussed about involving the youth and genealogy is that it is not unusual for a teenage person to have two or even three generations of their family still living. In those situations, rather than emphasize research into deceased relatives, how about involving the youth in gathering current family history in the form of oral interviews and other similar projects?
It is always puzzled me as to how the youth are to become involved in genealogical research in families where individuals missing from the pedigree have defied the efforts of generations of investigators? They are supposed to be able to do this simply because they have "superior computer skills?" A simple illustration of this challenge can be illustrated by simply imagining a situation where online research is no longer able to supply information which is still locked up in various repositories around the world. Are the youth supposed to take the initiative to travel to distant libraries and archives to do research? How do they do this without the involvement of their parents?
Although in my own experience my interest in genealogy arose at a time when I was already married and working as an attorney, I have friends who began their interest as teenagers in many instances assisting other family members in doing research. But any contributions they made to the existing family research came only after years of experience and maturing ability to do the research. This is especially true in situations where the ancestry very quickly evolves into an investigation in a foreign language.
In fact, the youth reflect the greater challenges faced by anyone beginning an interest in investigating their own family history. The skills and techniques that need to be acquired are the same.