Saturday, December 17, 2011

Decisions, decisions, decisions

Genealogy research comes with a lot of decisions to make. Some are simple, which line or branch of the tree do you pursue at the moment, which do you hold off on till more records become available online. Do you rely on a database you find online because some of the dates, places and names match what you already have or do you dig more to actually confirm that what the database contains is at least somewhat accurate.

Then there are the more difficult decisions regarding genealogy, even though they go along with those listed above they take more thought. Like when I found information that could POSSIBLY take some of my maternal lines back another generation or two but if I were to add the information to my tree and I come to find out later that the information is inaccurate or completely off as far as connecting to what I already have, removing it will be a chore that I definitely won't enjoy in the least.

And there begs the question (or more than one), is the information I found accurate enough that adding it to my tree would benefit not only my research but also others that may find a connection to the line? Do I add the information to my genealogy program or just to what I have in the binders in the hopes that I can find more evidence it fits? And in the case of one of my paternal lines, do I actually SKIP a generation and put 'unknown' as the names for BOTH parents and then add the grandparents because that information is known. Skipping an entire generation is something genealogists don't like to do because doing it can come back to bite you later on, especially if it turns out the 'grandparents' are wrong, which would then mean those 'unknown' parents are also wrong.

So if any of the above questions are ones you are dealing with right now good luck in making those decisions. I wish I could give you advice on what to do, but the decisions are going to be different for each researcher.

CSI had an episode on this week that involved the murder of a genealogist. It was one of the more interesting episodes I've seen in a long time, because another genealogist was helping one of the CSI's solve the case by literally doing research on the suspect's family. I recall her saying something that I've said on the blog more than once 'Use your gut, what's it say?' Genealogists have to go by what their instincts are telling them because in the end that might be all you have to work with.

Instincts are important for any detective but especially a genealogist doing research, so if you find information that could take one of your lines back one, two or even three generations but still aren't sure if you should add and/or include this information in your family tree, all I can say is go with your instincts.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

RootsTech doesn't want book vendors or publishers

There's been a lot of talk during the past couple of days about a decision that RootsTech has made regarding book vendors at their upcoming conference in February. Even though I don't plan on attending I find it sad that the organizers jumped to the conclusion that no one that IS attending would not want to browse vendors selling books about genealogy. Now, I don't claim to be technically sound, far from it in fact. I know how to use a computer (as you can see) and can use Word and other applications but look to my older brother when I need an 'expert' in something technical.

The conference was held for the first time last year and was a blend of technology AND genealogy but from what I saw online (they had some lectures available for free online), it was mostly technical. Of course, at the actual venue where it took place there were vendors selling and plugging not only technical items you could use for genealogy but also books. If I'm wrong about that please forgive me, but if they hadn't been I think the current discussion would've been around a year ago.

But this year they seemed to think that book vendors wouldn't be necessary, not a 'ban' of sorts but just not useful to researchers. But isn't that how most of us 'old-timer' genealogists started out? With books? When I started my research WAY back in 1991, the Internet didn't even exist at least not like it does now. There's were any cell phones or iPads, iPhones and the like and Facebook was probably only a thought in the back of the founders mind (or not). My paternal grandfather started his research in the 1970s BEFORE the miniseries Roots aired on television. He could only work with books and microfilm readers and writing LETTERS (yes actual letters no electronic mail for him).

When I began I found two BOOKS that he had and started with those, Searching For Your Ancestors and a book about my surname FRY. That's how a 'learned' what genealogy and the research behind it was. I also didn't have a computer back then (and if I did there wasn't a genealogy program for it) so I used the old standby, paper and pencil. My grandfather drew his OWN pedigree chart and I followed his example until I found templates of Pedigree charts and Family Group Sheets to use. I may record information in a genealogy program now, but I still use binders and notebook paper and I take notes the old-fashioned way (better than I did in high school).

But here's something else to consider, with the economy the way its been the last couple of years some (if not most) people can't AFFORD fancy 'toys' like laptops, iPads, and iPhones just to do genealogy research on. Heck, some books are pricey too, but those at least can be found cheaper on ebay. I know I've found a number of books on the auction site and even though they are older or even 'outdated' by some standards, I still rely on them from time to time because everyone, especially genealogists need a refresher on the basics of research.

I think its a shame that the organizers not only informed book vendors and publishers that they wouldn't be 'needed' at the conference but the fact that they did this TWO MONTHS before the event when the vendors have probably already made plans to attend and put the money aside to register and reserve hotel space. What do they do now? The time was set aside for the conference and everything else was turned down.

As of this blog entry, the organizers have seen all the uproar and discussion revolving around the decision and are taking the comments into consideration. I hope they realize the mistake they made passing judgement on the book vendors and publishers and reverse the decision. The conference should focus on both genealogy AND technology but it shouldn't omit the one thing that even newcomers to genealogy might rely on, BOOKS.