How to be a “You Cannot Fail” Genealogist

Confession Time. Everything in my life is a combination of trial and error, and that includes Genealogy. I started writing the past year of Blog posts by accident. It was in response to a blog post, by my now friend, Paul Chiddicks, in his article The Top 10 Sins of a Genealogist. So now after a year of being an accidental blogger in earnest it got me thinking of why I write. Here’s what I wrote to Paul: To make connections, to inspire and to make people think differently. There are so many people being told you “Must do it this way.” And I am really just saying “No you don’t.” Try this, or it’s okay to do that. If we know we can’t fail, we’d take more risks. We’d try more unconventional things. And my guess is we would have more fun.

Over the years, the How To’s and edicts by the experts intimidated me, discouraged me and made me feel bad about “how” I was doing genealogy. I always felt I was doing it wrong. Now I write, partly to be the antidote to that and partly to share things I have learned or am in the process of learning. And what gives me the courage to talk back to authority? A half century of genealogical research and what I have been able to accomplish in spite of doing it all wrong. When I started my website it was because I started a Wheaton DNA Project and at the same time I was laid up from leg surgery and had to keep my leg elevated for 6 weeks. And that is how I work: adversity, inspiration, opportunity and persistence.

It’s important to know how you work best. Is it deadlines and goals? Great. But if that isn’t you I am here to encourage you to find your own way. We can learn a lot from experts; but they can also stifle our creativity and our native abilities. They can make us feel bad about not measuring up. So you set out to write 52 Ancestors stories and managed just one or none. So what? The fact that I don’t always note my sources as well as I should, or that I gave up writing down every reference I consulted after about 5 years—I suppose now a days I could keep all that in Evernote and search through that every time I got inspired to go look up something new. After 50 years I can say the way I do things and end up revisiting things suits me fine. The chance to revisit, is a chance to find what I overlooked the first time. If I simply go to my notes and say “oh I already checked that” and never recheck , that is a lost opportunity.

If I take a walk and I drop a glove and have to go back to look for it, I tend not to bemoan that—I tend to look at it as an opportunity to look at things a bit closer. To get another chance. Okay so not to belabor the point here’s my advice. Follow bloggers and genealogists who encourage, inspire and make you feel good about the way you do genealogy—if you follow people who make you feel bad about things, why? Especially now after 2 years of Covid-19 and fractious politics we don’t need much more negativity. Let your new genealogy mantra be to have fun or die trying! Try to find others that you connect with; that make you smile or even laugh out loud at yourself. If you are a creative or rebellious sort, just know you are not alone—and you can accomplish a lot and never do it the way you are supposed to.

The Key to “You Cannot Fail,” is not to give up trying. The key is to let go of your definition of failure. if all you ever do, is research what you want and share that with a few family members that is success! At the end of the day, for me, it is about connection. It is about connecting with my past and with a future that I will not live to see. It is to leave behind something—-breadcrumbs for others to follow. Although not completed yet I have blogged posts from my Great grandmother Lulu’s diary. It connects me to her in ways I could never have imagined and it makes me cognizant that the struggles of 100 years ago are not so different than the ones today. Although much of genealogy is a solitary pursuit it is also one incredible opportunity to share and connect with others. We share ancestors and stories and we connect because we share a passion to find out more. If my writing brings you a little closer to doing something you love, I am very glad for it. That makes me happy. I write for myself, but I share with you for the one person, that may be reading a post, who needed to read just this. I may never know what a difference it made, but I like to think it did. And that is my double delight. Thank you !

Rose Double Delight

Kelly Wheaton © 2022 All Rights reserved.

2 Comments on “How to be a “You Cannot Fail” Genealogist”

  1. All good thoughts! I entered the world of genealogy just two years ago and I didn’t know there were “rules” to follow–lucky me!

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