The Star-Herald

Spice up your research for the new year

Genealogists are like most people.  We tend to get in a rut and to feel most comfortable with the familiar, and we remain in that rut when we research.  We visit the same libraries, focus on certain websites, and subscribe to the same publications year after year.

As the New Year comes in, it’s time to think about resolutions. I urge you to consider making just one genealogical resolution:  try something new.  If you’re in the genealogical doldrums, it’s time to energize your batteries.

It doesn’t have to be a radical change or expensive.  Consider taking a free online webinar – offers new selections each month and even taking a basic “how to” could provide you with some new information or give you a new approach to your research.  Or, go to a library and read a genealogical magazine, one you don’t usually subscribe to.  Who knows what you might find?

If there’s a genealogical group or society that meets near where you live, attend a meeting.  Don’t be shy, talk to people and let them know what you are researching and problems you may be having.  You may find a distant cousin there who is researching the same family you are, or who has knowledge of the area your ancestors came from, or someone who knows someone who might help you. One thing about most genealogists is that we love to try to help other researchers.

Another suggestion is to visit a library or archive and just see what’s there.  You may find some great things to help you or even run into another researcher looking for the same thing you are. You might consider a research visit to a Historical Society you’ve never been to – just call ahead and be sure they are open at this time of the year. I’ve written before of the value of those hidden treasures buried in Historical Society collections.

Maybe you could tap into some governmental resources – probate records, deeds, court cases, etc.  If  you’ve never researched any of these,  a visit is now in order.

The goal is to broaden your horizons just a little.  Sometimes leaving your comfort zone allows you to find resources you didn’t know about or think would be of value.  Attending a group meeting will give you a chance to network with other genealogists and that can lead to wonderful advantages if you find someone researching the same family.  But just listening to a talk given by another genealogist can be eye opening.

Sometimes you will see the words “case study” in the write up about a forthcoming program.  Don’t shy away because it’s not about your family.  Learning how others broke through brick walls or uncovered a little-used source can make you realize it could work for you.  

Remember, you’ll never know what you might find if you don’t try.  I wish you all a Happy New Year and great researching.

Columnist Nancy Battick of Dover-Foxcroft has researched genealogy for over 30 years. She is past president of the Maine Genealogical Society. Reader emails are welcome at Her semimonthly column is sponsored by the Aroostook County Genealogical Society which meets the fourth Monday of the month except in July and December at the Caribou Library at 6:30 p.m. Guests are always welcome. FMI contact Edwin “J” Bullard at 492-5501.

Get the Rest of the Story

Thank you for reading your 4 free articles this month. To continue reading, and support local, rural journalism, please subscribe.