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Friday, May 20, 2011

Genealogist or Family History Researcher?

What do each of these terms mean to you? Which term do you use when describing yourself?

To me, a genealogist is a little more devoted to the system and the rules, perhaps a tad better organized, maybe less likely to bark up the wrong family tree.

A family history researcher may or may not do all of the above, but also spends a fair amount of time exploring paths that, to the casual observer, may seem unrelated to documenting one's lineage.

Because of my diverse ethnic background, I find myself meandering back and forth between both worlds.

My Swedish Tolfs are unique in their homeland. If you're a Tolf, we are definately related. My interest in this line includes causes of death ~ they repeat themselves every two or three generations all the way to the present. I've gotten fairly good at deciphering medical records.

There is alot of emotional baggage in the Mueller line. Deaths, divorces, remarriages, and stubborn personalities are forever simmering over a low heat. Who can answer this question or that without causing the pot to boil over? There are many mysteries to solve in the US before I can cross the ocean to Switzerland and begin the Swiss records learning curve.

Clarkes and Littrells require a history lesson with every record; what Revolutionary or Civil War battle took place where? When did the city/county/state boundaries change? Which reformed church had a pastor during this or that timeframe? What on earth is a Dunkard? And will I ever find the answer to the #1 burning question ~ what is their country of origin?

The Schmitts are from France and their surname is hardly unique. I require three forms of ID when working with their records. It would be easy to follow the wrong Schmitt, especially one named Jean, Jules, or Nicolas as they appear in every sibling's family. Then there is the Alsace-Lorraine issue, a region that changed hands many times. I use research logs liberally with this branch and backtrack to double-check my work with each new discovery.

My Manx ancestors had a preference for a limited number of given names. There is a William and a John, sometimes two or three in every family. The Isle of Man has it's own government, but is culturally influenced by Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the UK. Records are well kept, but can be challenging to locate. The only other known family member researching this line recently passed away. Playing alone in dusty libraries isn't nearly as much fun.

I enjoy discovering the story that unfolds with each new record. Storytelling helps engage disinterested family members. The charts are wonderful for placing people visually, but the stories make the names on the chart memorable. Making my ancestors memorable for future generations is one of my top ten reasons for being a genealogist. And a family history researcher.

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