You See But You Do Not Observe 4/26/10

You See But You Do Not Observe 4/26/10

In  A Scandal in Bohemia, private investigator extraordinaire Sherlock Holmes brings to our attention that our skills of observation can always be improved upon.  


Whether reviewing a fragile marriage certificate or taking in a tin type, heightened skills of observation can benefit the genealogist.  And that is just one detective method that can and should be employed.

In the newest issue of Family Tree Magazine (July 2010) which hits news stands today, I share my Top 10 Detective Strategies for finding living relatives who may just hold the answers to some of your family history mysteries.  
Thinking like a P.I. means thinking outside the box – the Internet search box that is.  When it comes to estranged relatives, unknown distant cousins or folks you’ve just lost track we track down the leads that go well beyond Google.
Here’s an excerpt from the article that will get you started called Phone Tapping.  You can get the entire article by visiting the Shop Family Tree website.

A New Source of Help for Google Books 3/29/10

One of the Google’s many resources is Google Books, which allows you to browse through books and magazines of almost any topic imaginable. (Have you checked out Ancestry magazine back issues at Google Books?) But if you’ve been having trouble using the site, want more information, or want to connect with other users, the new Google Books Help Forum is now up and running!

The forum allows you to get answers directly from a team of forum guides as well as other users who may know what you are looking for. You can post your question directly in a new discussion, or you can browse other posed discussion questions. When the forum team has answered it, the discussion will have “Answered” written in green below the link.

You can also sort the list of questions by recent activity, date asked, and popularity. Or you can choose to look at questions that have been answered or unanswered. In addition, Google Books Help Forum has a blog, which you can find a link to on the left side of the forum page. This is a wonderful way for new users or even the most experienced users to get help with any aspect of using Google Books. Good luck finding those genealogy gems!

If I don’t say this I think my head will explode 3/7/10

I’ve been reading the blogs and Facebook postings about Who Do You Think You Are? and there’s an odd theme that keeps rearing it’s head that IMHO is off the mark.  I’m surprised that this particular criticism of the show continues to surface because I think NBC, Ancestry and the producers have been pretty straight forward about what the goal of the show is.  They probably didn’t think they had to say what the goal is not.

The goal of the show is entertain and captivate the audience by taking someone that most folks know and can identify with (a celeb) and have them share their personal journey of discovering a line of their family history; sharing the excitement of uncovering clues, facts and insights, and their new found connection with American History. (If NBC succeeds, they make money and the show gets a second season.  For Ancestry, their goal is that viewers will head to and try a search.  If they succeed, they make money, and they stay in business.)
The goal is not to provide a how to class on conducting genealogy research.  
In fact, I say “thank goodness!” that teaching the research process is not their goal.  If is were, you’d see the show replaced by re-runs of The Jay Leno Show faster than you can say “peacock.” 
And I have to ask the genealogists out there who are bemoaning the lack of detail about how and where documents were found in the making of the show:  Would you really want that?  Would NBC really be the most qualified entity to provide such instruction?  In fact, dare I say it, would Ancestry really be?  (They have GREAT online documents, but instruction on the research process doesn’t appear to be one of their goals either!)
My answer is, No, of course not.  
Let’s drift back to the hey day of genealogy entering America’s consciousness – the debut of Roots.  Hands down, Roots did more for genealogy than anything else in recent memory.  I don’t recall seeing a single document, courthouse, or National Archives employee in that series.  And if we had seen that it would have diluted from the incredible impact it had on all of us.  
Alex Haley and the TV network buy medicine online with paypal showed us what was possible – showed us our connection to history – showed us the stories just begging to be uncovered in our own family tree!  We did not walk, we RAN to books, classes, Family History Centers and other resources to learn more about how to do what Alex did.  His aim was true and he nailed it:  He INSPIRED us to want to know more.  
Inspiration is what it is all about. I think that perhaps the genealogist out there, many of whom teach classes on the subject, have perhaps just forgotten for a moment that inspiring your students is goal #1. If you can’t do that, all of the technical information in the world will go in one ear and out the other. 
So I count my lucky stars that Who Do You Think You Are? doesn’t try to be a classroom for research.  I am very confident that all of the talented and experienced genealogists out there are primed to step in and take on that role for the thousands of newbies who catch the bug after watching the show.
By the way, Kudos to Lisa Kudrow and NBC for including as much history, documents and archive visits as they do in the series.  If you listen carefully to Lisa’s interview, (on Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 81 , Genealogy Gems Premium Episode 41, and in the video interview below) you will hear her comment on how they had to fight to include what they did.  Don’t underestimate her words.  She says it in passing, but I’m sure that bringing as much history as they did to network TV was a HUGE uphill battle.  There are lots of TV types out there who think Americans can only handle 15 second sound bites.  TV is big business and all about the money.  
So I’m giving NBC and Lisa Kudrow high marks for believing in the American viewing audience.  And we as genealogists will take it from there!

If you’d like to learn more about how to research your family history, I invite you to listen to the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast.  It’s free and will walk you through the research process step-by-step.

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