Standing at the Edge of the Big Genealogy Pool

WPA "Learn to Swim Campaign" Poster

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, cph 3f05399, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3f05399

I consider myself a novice at the whole genealogy thing.  I’m just over a year into it, and I still have so much to learn.  It amuses me that many of my friends are now coming to me for advice on all things genealogical.  Somehow, I’ve become the resident expert.  This week alone, I have been asked for advice by half a dozen people because they know I do that “genealogy thing.”

In my mind, I see myself as that first time swimmer in the big pool.  I’m sure you’ve seen the kid.  Their mom has slathered him in sunscreen, he has the goggles, nose plugs, water wings, and the float around his middle. There he stands on the edge of the pool, trying to decide: do I jump in; walk to the shallow end and slowly wade in; or forget the whole thing and go back to the wading pool and play it safe?

That overwhelming what have-I-gotten-myself-into feeling still creeps up on me every so often and I find myself looking at the new, big genealogy pool with nervous knots all over again.

Obviously, my friends have noticed me standing there too.  The questions have had a wonderful side-effect. I’ve had to think about other people’s families, and not just my lines.  These puzzles have led me to resources I wouldn’t have looked at before, books I wouldn’t have picked up, and skills I may not have otherwise acquired.

The big one:  learning to ask very specific questions. With the correct questions, you get the information you need the first time and don’t have to spend multiple conversations getting it.

Then I consider the classes I’m taking, which further push me toward the water.  I am currently taking Irish Research 201 and US Military Records.  Talk about pushing yourself to learn new things and look in unusual places!  These classes have given me the groundwork I need to take my research up to the next level in those subjects.  I’ve now waded up to my chest in that big pool. Maybe I’ll take the life vest off next.

I enjoy dealing with the genetic genealogy puzzles; however, it’s daunting at times.  Yes, I understand how all the technical stuff works with genetics, disease, heredity and so forth, but until I started looking into family history, I didn’t know anything about how to use it for genealogy. That wasn’t covered in the undergrad courses I took over a decade ago. I’ve been reading, re-reading and researching the subject, and I’m now just beginning to get it. At this point, I can safely say I feel like that life vest has been flung to the winds, and I’m trying to see how long I can sit on the bottom of the pool before I have to come up for air!

Pushing yourself to learn and do new things is always nerve wracking, but in the end, if it is something you truly enjoy, well worth it. So here I stand, teetering on the verge of jumping into the next big pool I see.

3 thoughts on “Standing at the Edge of the Big Genealogy Pool

  1. I think you American family researchers, or people researching family in the US, are extremely lucky, as are people in the UK. The wealth of knowledge, resources and learning information is wonderful.
    It is for this reason that I find myself concentrating on my partner’s (British) ancestors, rather than my (Sri Lanka and Dutch) ancestors.

  2. Maybe this will help: Go to Familysearch.org… and look in All Records – there is a database for Sri Lanka

    Sri Lanka, Colombo District Dutch Reformed Church Records, 1677-1990

  3. Jay: Yes we are lucky compared to many other nations when it comes to the records that we can access. Sometimes I wonder if that can be part of the problem. There is so much you are not quite sure where to look or how to proceed. Or you have to figure out which person is yours from the 100 John Smiths you find.

    Family seach is a good source, I hope you find information there!

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