Though I started researching my genealogy (in the loosest sense of the word research) when I was about eight or nine years old, I have been involved with genealogy off and on throughout my entire life. I started researching at the National Archives (Archives I in Washington, D. C.) at age sixteen, when I was still in high school. By the time I was nineteen I was spending every Saturday cranking through microfilmed federal census records, passenger lists, and military indexes, looking for my family.
I learned everything I could about the records available where my ancestors lived: Stamford, Connecticut; Harrisonburg, Virginia; Schoharie, Suffolk, and Saratoga counties, New York; and other places. Doing this I was able to find out quite a bit about my ancestors, but there were plenty of brickwalls. Inch by inch I would creep forward, relying often on derivative sources and a network of other researchers found through word of mouth and (eventually) surname email lists and message boards.
Learning methodology–”how to research”–never entered my mind.
Fast forward a few years. After a couple of years without active research, I learned that my wife was pregnant with our daughter. The pending addition to my family inspired me to jump back in with renewed excitement.
Internet genealogy had changed significantly within just two or three years! Those old surname- and location-specific mailing lists and message boards barely scratched the surface of what was available online.
But more importantly, I started to read about research methodology. Elizabeth Shown Mills’s Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian and Christine Rose’s Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case taught me that research does not end when you find a record. These books taught me the importance of evidence analysis and other skills that I learned to apply to my research.
Not client research as a professional genealogist. My professional career came later. I learned to apply proper research techniques to my own family research first. (And one of these days I will go back to some of my older research and bring it up to par.)
As I learned about the Genealogical Proof Standard, and started to apply it to my research, the brick walls amazingly started to crumble before me. I was able to “form logically-reasoned, clearly-written conclusions” based on a “reasonably exhaustive search for records that contain pertinent information,” and by “analyzing” and “correlating” the information and “reconciling conflicting information.” These conclusions carry so much more confidence because they meet the standards.
One comment I have heard from time to time is that the Genealogical Proof Standard or the more detailed BCG standards are “just for professionals.” In my experience, and I would venture to say the experiences of all other researchers who apply them to their own personal research, the Standards are definitely not “just for professionals.”
The Standards are for anyone who wants to accurately research their family history.