Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Guide to Starting Your Family History in 10 Very Basic Steps -- Step Ten

This is an ongoing series on starting your family history research in 10 very basic steps. The steps so far are:

A Guide to Starting Your Family History in 10 Very Basic Steps -- Introduction
Step One -- Start with yourself
Step Two: Find out what has already been done
Step Three: Choose a reasonable goal
Step Four: Start educating yourself
Step Five: Seek a Teacher or Mentor
Step Six: Use The Family History Guide
Step Seven: Choose a place to record your research
Step Eight: Add Sources to Your Entries in Your Family Tree

Step Nine: Think About What You Have Done and Do the Math

Now I will move on to Step Ten:

Step Ten: Take time to assess your goals

It is inevitable that as you continue to investigate and research your ancestry, you will find that it becomes more and more difficult to find additional information. You may need to stop and evaluate your motivation for continuing your research. Whether you are motivated by a casual curiosity or deeply held religious beliefs your desire to continue will likely determine the outcome of your reflections on the subject.

I have just been involved in a lengthy email conversation with someone about the difficulty of continuing research on a specific ancestral line. I think one of the most frustrating experiences of family history research is butting your head up against the same problem, sometimes for years. My suggestion is that as you evaluate your motivation, you take the time to reassess your goals. If you have a family line that seems to resist progress, perhaps you need to move on to other lines. Usually, this "end-of-line" situation comes about from focusing too closely on the problem and not stepping back and researching a larger community of people. The crucial information about an individual may be in the records of someone who is not even related to the family, but lived in the same area.

There are some definite skills that need to be acquired to do family history or genealogical research. Are you really interested enough in your family history to acquire those skills? That is a question only you can answer. What are you willing to give up to acquire those skills? Do you have other interests that you feel are more important to maintain? I often reflect on how different my own life would be if I was involved in any number of very enjoyable activities such as fishing, boating, golf, sports and other activities that I see people my age involved in. Are you ready to trade some or all of those activities to spend time researching historical records in libraries and elsewhere? This is not an either/or situation, you can spend time doing things you like to do, but researching family history does require a time commitment and that time has to come from somewhere.

Some of us would like to think that genealogical research has universal appeal. If that were really the case, then the world would be structured a lot differently than it is today. I can only say from my own perspective, that I find it challenging, enjoyable and much more satisfying than a lot of other possible activities. You may need to think carefully through how you are going to integrate research into your present life style.

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