Are Genealogy and Family History Your Game This Season?

stadium at nightI wrote about the genealogy touchdown back in February.1 Although it was my way of well-wishing genealogists and family historians in their work on Super Bowl Sunday, the game of football can help create a winning strategy in the pursuit of your family tree goals.

One person every team needs is a good coach. I remember when I was a little girl the undefeated season of the Miami Dolphins. Yes, that was my team and I have a childhood photo to prove it :-) Coach Don Shula once said, “I think what coaching is all about is taking players and analyzing [their] ability, put[ting] them in a position where they can excel within the framework of the team winning…”2

If you have the desire and motivation this is your opportunity. You can be the coach of your own team. As one committed to helping others grow their family trees, I provide the following questions for you to consider as the football season begins:

How do you define your Family History Bowl this season?

Like the NFL, the goal is to win the Bowl game. Although we may want to know everything about our lineage back to Adam, each season brings a different challenge. Decide on the individual that will be the pivotal player of your project. This individual’s story becomes your game. When you choose someone to focus on, realize that the outgrowth of your pursuit will encompass family, community, and social history. This pivotal player will help you determine if what you find is relevant to the game you are currently playing. The focus on this pivotal person will help you set parameters on your pursuit so that progress can be made with little distraction. Finding an in-law, or outlaw, may be interesting, but if it doesn’t take you to your Bowl game it must be put aside for another season. Note your interest, but then get back in the game. Remember, if you were playing the Super Bowl Champions today, you would not concern yourself with any other team but them. FOCUS on the goal; this is how a game is won :-)

What’s your game plan?

Every genealogist needs a plan that provides direction in their research. A great place to begin once you have determined that pivotal person is the FamilySearch wiki and the Ancestry.com wiki. These resources can provide direction at no cost to you. Search for the known or suspected locality of that pivotal person on these sites to find what record sets are available that might help answer your questions. Then, of course, use websites, including the FamilySearch Catalog, and on-site research facilities to identify holdings and locate specific record sets. By the way, one overlooked resource is individuals who might have known your pivotal person so interview as many of them as possible. Once you know what your game plan is it’s time to make another decision…

Who’s on your team?

In football the offense has 11 players, and the defense has an equal number. Then there are special teams. You may not be able to recruit these numbers to your team, but recruit. The actual number of team players is dependent on the individual project. Teamwork is your key to success :-)

Your offense will consist of those that actually assist in obtaining the genealogy touchdowns. These individuals will be other family members, if you are fortunate, and friends of a like-mind. I would recommend that you become the quarterback; the team will need your vision and leadership :-) For those with children and/or grandchildren, involve them in tasks that engage them. Most children will have an interest in some aspect of this work if it’s presented to them in an appealing way. It’s amazing how genealogical tasks can become enjoyable. It’s not always the task at hand but who you’re with that can make the difference, especially for children.

Now the defense is critical. There are so many competing interests and distractions in life that one may believe that there is no time for this game. Your defense must be carefully considered. It always helps to have the support of family and friends. Remember, your best defense is a good offense. Determine what you will do and stay with the plan, unless of course it’s a true emergency :-)

Finally, you must identify who’s on special teams. These are the reference librarians, archivists, and others who can direct you when necessary. Make a list of the libraries, archives, genealogical and historical societies that are specialists in your area of interest. Those at a Family History Center near you may also be able to assist you.

What’s your schedule?

Now that you’ve defined your Bowl game, determined your game plan, and identified your team, it’s time to set the schedule to play the game. Decide when you can play and stick to it. Once a week is a good strategy in the lives of people who are busy with other commitments. Two to three hours on a Sunday evening may be just the activity you need, but the schedule is yours to decide. I’ve seen meaningful success in 15 minutes. Although there have been a few games forfeited over the years, your game is worth playing so stick with it!

We are in this to win!

I’m looking forward to a winning season; I hope you are, too! Unlike winning the NFL Super Bowl, each team in the field of genealogy and family history can win the big one. I look forward to your genealogical success! I am here all season to answer your questions; contact me :-) I would love to hear from you!

1. Definition: A genealogy touchdown is when you have used sound principles to gather enough information and evidence to accurately identify an individual and his or her place in the world. A genealogy touchdown is the answer to your research question. Depending on your game, a genealogy touchdown is when you have used sound principles to gather enough information and evidence to reconstruct a family, a neighborhood and/or events that tell a story of a people. A genealogy touchdown is a sense of accomplishment amidst the game, knowing the game is not over yet. A genealogy touchdown inspires an end zone celebration :-)

2. Don Shula. BrainyQuote.com, Xplore Inc, 2013. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/d/don_shula.html, accessed August 31, 2013.

Copyright ©2013-2017 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

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