Genealogy is a lonely sport. You spent hours at a computer searching a database for a single relative who lived a hundred years ago. You sit in some musty, dusty room in the back of a library going through roll after roll of microfilm hoping to find at least one obituary. And, then when you find that long lost document, it is just you. Wouldn’t it be great if there was someone you could share with?
One of the pleasures of genealogy, especially in the internet age, is the ability to collaborate with others. What? You aren’t collaborating with other genealogists? Let me give you five reasons why you should collaborate with other genealogists:
- You miss out on having someone to work on genealogy problems with you when you aren’t collaborating. Two heads are better than one. Sometimes a fresh research perspective is all that is needed to solve a brick wall.
- When you work with others, you have someone to bounce your hypothesis off of. I spend a great deal of time contemplating the “what ifs”. What if great grandfather was married before he married my great grandmother? What if that child in the photo is one I wasn’t aware of for this couple? What if Albert in the census is really Bertha? We need others to mull these things over and poke holes in them. Genealogy is about proving things, but it is also about disproving them.
- If you aren’t collaborating with other genealogists, you are missing out on finding new cousins. Sure, we all want to find dead people. That’s what genealogy is about. But, finding new cousins who share your DNA and who can add to what you know about your family history is a wonderful thing. And, you know what? Those new cousins have photos you’ve never seen. Now, that is something to think about!
- If you aren’t working with others, you miss the opportunity to learn new ways to research. We often go about things in the same way. When you work with other genealogists, you learn different ways to research. You also learn about resources that you didn’t know were available. I know a heck of a lot about Hawaii, but very little about Massachusetts. I’ve learned so much from a Massachusetts cousin who is working on the family from that end. I find out about records I did not know existed.
- This is the biggee. When you collaborate with other genealogists, you have someone who will share the thrill of the hunt and get excited over your discoveries. Let’s face it. Most of our family members have barely a passing interest in our family history endeavors. To be able to share discoveries with someone who is just as interested as you are is priceless. Only certain people will get excited over the fact that you just found your great great aunt in the 1930 census which means she didn’t die after all. Okay, she eventually died. Just not when you thought.
In the summer of 2015 I spent quite a bit of time working with a cousin on our joint Azorean lines. The work we’ve done has move our tree from Hawaii and Massachusetts to Canada. If she hadn’t reached out to me, I wouldn’t even know that their were cousins in Massachusetts. Without collaboration, neither of us would have expanded our trees to multiple states, multiple migrations, and multiple countries.
I know that a lot of genealogists hold their research and findings close to the vest. Personally, I prefer the “throw it out there and see who sniffs” method. I’ve gotten great pleasure collaborating with others. Don’t cheat yourself out of that same joy. I really mean this. If you aren’t collaborating with other genealogist, you really are missing out on the fun!