Are There Common Traits All Genealogists Share?

After reading What Does It Take To Be A Successful Genealogist on the Genoom Blog, I started thinking about what I considered to be the traits that are needed to be a successful genealogists.  I decided that patience was a much needed trait to be mentioned (read my comment at the bottom of the post if you’d like to see exactly what I said).  As I was writing a comment with my thoughts, I began to contemplate whether I shared any of these traits.

I began to realize that I am not always patient in my research by choice but rather by force.  I am forced to wait until the microfilm comes into the library.  I am forced to wait for the 1940 census to be released before I can gain more clues about my grandparents.  I am forced to wait for the record that I ordered to come in the mail.  I am forced to wait until June for a good time at the Jamboree.  If I had things my way I am sure that I would choose things to be much more instant.

I also realized that I am a perfectionist in my research.  I want my research to be perfect.  I want my citations to be perfect.  I want my pedigree chart to be filled in completely with just the perfect font (Oh yes – the details do matter).  I want detailed notes on each person in my database.  Everything relating to my own research must be perfect.

(Just to clarify real quick – this isn’t to say that my ancestors must be perfect or fit into some neat little box.  Rather, my research techniques and the way that I display my ancestors must be perfect)

I am also a busy body.  While your family tree is just something that is never complete, I am always one who is willing to jump from one ancestor to the next.  When I finish one ancestor I do not take a break – I dive right into the next ancestral adventure and continue looking for clues.  I am always on the search for the next story of a black sheep, revolutionist, non-conformist, courageous immigrant, proud patriot, loving mother, etc.  Each ancestor has a story that I am desperately searching for and anxious to share.

But after reflecting on myself, I began to realize that there are other researchers who I believe share some of these traits.  How often am I on Facebook reading about another genea-friend wishing for more hours in a day?  How many of us genealogists are frustrated about finding an incorrect source citation in our database?  How many of us are always searching for further clues to discover the story of the next ancestor?

It isn’t to say that any of these traits are bad.  If anything they have made me a better genealogist.

So what do you think?  Do you share any of these traits?  Or do you believe there are other traits that genealogists share?

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13 responses to “Are There Common Traits All Genealogists Share?

  1. We also need a good health to handle the lack of sleep.

  2. The most important trait in my opinion is curiosity. Unless you are truly interested in the facts and stories you are researching, the work isn't meaningful.

    Of course it helps to have basic logic and problem-solving skills.

  3. All family historians are keepers. Personally and professionally.


  4. I also find that I love trying to figure out a mystery. I do a lot of troubleshooting stuff for my job (technology/web) and I noticed that genealogy is similar. Take all the data and remove variables until you have the most reliable option. Rinse and repeat.

  5. Genealogists need to be good listeners and ask good questions throughout their lifetime. They also need to be aware that they were born to be the keepers of the information.

  6. I agree we are keepers of history. Because I do genealogy, I ended up with my uncle's Purple Heart medal and paperwork that goes with it.

  7. Claudia's thoughts

    Curiosity, persistence,able to research and document, and by the time we are done we could qualify to be detectives.

  8. I'd say those of us who have scrolled through reels and reels of microfilm would have to admit to being a little bit obsessive-compulsive! ­čśë

  9. I love the stories and enjoy the sleuthing challenge. Traits are persistence, curiousness, attention to detail and order and a willingness not to let the information fade away and be forgotten. It is personally rewarding to share the research and to help others find their ancestry.

  10. Concetta Phillipps

    Great concept, Elyse!

    I can't second the "good health" LOL, as mine's probably not the best, but other than that, I do find that I have the patience, curiousity, troubleshooting and logic abilities that most genealogists have. And most of us have good memories. And we are skilled organizers and keepers of our family information.

    I'd also add that we all seem to be very passionate people. To care about not only our living relatives but ours that passed on, one has to have a certain abundance of energy and excitement to use and then pass onto our children, cousins, and grandchildren.

  11. Ah, yes! Another that comes to mind (ahem) is self-discipline! "Joanne… you must leave this repository sometime today to EAT; get off your computer, it's 1am, GO TO BED; before you do any more research, how about entering what you already have into your database; and for Pete's Sake, cite your sources"!

  12. You are experiencing what I call OCFRD – Obsessive Compulsive Family Research Disorder. It is incurable and will give you many hours of enjoyment, frustration and sleeplessness.
    .-= Tennlady┬┤s last blog ..A Zabrack Follow-up. =-.

  13. Looking back, jigsaw puzzles were the gateway to this addiction. Not the wimpy 500-piecers, but 1500+ with cloudless blue skies over a sea of grass (or just plain sea). From this, I developed the twin virtues of patience and determination.

    Devouring every copy of Nancy Drew in the public library taught me to follow clues *as well as* hunches, and to listen to that inner voice that says something isn’t ‘right’. Think outside the box.

    Later, having a mother “suffering” from OCFRD is how my children learned to be self-sufficient, although I do admit to fleeting pangs of guilt remembering their sad little faces appearing beyond the piles of files on the dining room table and asking “Mom, are you ever going to fix dinner?”. (This **may** be why all have resisted being bitten by the genealogy bug…so far.) But the memory of being complimented by their teachers on having “take-charge, well-adjusted children” quickly erases the guilt. That and the thought that their descendants will be *thrilled* that Great-grandma Joanna spent nearly every waking minute “chasing dead people”!
    .-= Joanna/JamaGenie┬┤s last blog ..Augustus Saint-Gaudens and the Cornish Colony =-.

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