At some point in our genealogical endeavors, we’ve probably all wished for some sort of superhuman enhancement to our research skills. If not the ability to leap brick walls in a single bound, than perhaps we’ve longed simply for x-ray vision so we can figure out what occupation the census-taker had in mind for our great-great grandfather.
While preparing for a series of posts in which I’ll interview some of our lookup providers, I brainstormed some questions to ask them. One question on my list got me particularly excited:
Do you have a genealogical “superpower”? (i.e., a unique research ability or technique that helps you track down records or assemble conclusions that others can’t?) If so, what is it?
I’ve pondered how I’d answer the question myself. My research skills are hardly superlative, but I think I possess a few qualities that help me succeed (and have fun!) where others struggle and get frustrated:
Seeing My Ancestors as Real People
Though I’ve stared forlornly at my share of empty slots on pedigree charts, I’ve never had a problem thinking of genealogy merely as a process of checking off boxes. I’ve always been blessed to approach it from the perspective of getting to know my ancestors — and their stories — a little better. That way, when a newly-discovered document provides helpful background info, but neglects to mention parents’ names, I’m seldom disappointed.
Ability to Switch Gears Easily
When a seemingly promising line of inquiry on one ancestor repeatedly fails to pan out, I find myself effortlessly transitioning to a new approach on a different ancestor without any lengthy period of soul-searching or annoyance. As a result, when Thomas McEntee asks me to post about an ancestor that drives me mad for Madness Monday, I honestly can’t think of any — I just never get to that point.
Batman and Robin
OK, so maybe my “superpowers” aren’t so super. I’m probably more qualified to be a superhero sidekick than wear the cape myself. My wife Cynthia, by comparison, is the real deal. Her superpower is her divergent thinking skills. When a patron at our Family History Center brings in a Chicago-area research problem, my wife can list five or six possible lines of attack within a few seconds. Once the patron chooses one, she can rapidly iterate and generate new ideas based on the results found. If the death certificate the patron needs doesn’t show up in the online index, she’s off to the appropriate cemetery record film or old newspaper obituary website to track the death info down there. Faster than a speeding bullet. You get the idea.
What about you — what’s your genealogical superpower? Encyclopedic recall of FHL film numbers covering your county? Mad Ancestry/Footnote search box wildcard skillz? Brain-embedded co-processor containing source citation templates from Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained? Consider sharing your superpower with us in a post on your blog. Or just let us know in the comments below. Thanks!