16 February 2017

What Makes a Great Genealogist? Perseverance? Creativity? Je Ne Sais Quoi?

[CC-BY-ND-2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/)], via flickr 

What Makes a Great Genealogist? Perseverance? Creativity? Je Ne Sais Quoi?

Back in 2014, James Tanner in his blog, Genealogy’s Star, wrote a post, Finding Unusual and Unique Sources: The Traits of a Great Genealogist, where he discusses the various traits that make a great genealogist. He compares these traits as akin to those of the great fictional detectives.

Besides talking about the traits of great genealogists he also makes what I consider a profound statement …


Solving genealogical mysteries is not usually something noticed by other genealogists. In fact, many of the people whose mysteries are solved do not ever realize what has been accomplished.

Isn't this so true?  Think about it, you do your research, you scratch your head, you dig into some new-to-you records, you find the information you seek, and you move on.  Since genealogy is so full of mysteries to be solved, how do you appreciate that the mystery you just solved might actually be quite an accomplishment, a mystery solved that few others might have been able to solve.  In short, you often don’t …

I also identify with when he says …


Some of the greatest genealogists could not make a living doing genealogy because they would spend too much time on each case to make it profitable.

As a professional genealogist, and one who researches, writes, teaches and lectures, I can attest how hard it is to make a living at my chosen profession, hence the need to write, teach and lecture, as a means to supplement my income from research, because, it’s hard work to work within project budget constraints to do all of the research that you would like or need to so to solve a mystery.  You always want to do more!!!  You always want to solve the mystery!!! Unfortunately, that’s not always possible or doable under constraints of record availability, budget, etc.

Regardless of how you define what it takes to be a great genealogist, one doesn’t have to be great or identified as great in order to be successful in your personal or professional genealogical journal.

Though, as a last takeaway from what James shared, as I am a firm believer (as one who edits two genealogical journals), do look for and research into unusual and unique resources.  There are so many hidden gems of information just waiting to be unearthed by researchers!



What characteristic(s) do you think elevate a genealogist from being good to great?

Is there an unsung genealogical hero in your life -- someone who seemed to just think of a problem in an unusual way, consult an unexpected resource, etc?







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