A mentor is an individual, usually older, always more experienced, who helps and guides another individual’s development. This guidance is not done for personal gain.
A genealogy mentor is an individual who has more genealogy experience then yourself, perhaps they are older but not necessarily. (We have many very young experienced genealogists these days.) Either way, they have more years of experience in the genealogy field. They could be a professional genealogist but not necessarily. Many excellent genealogists have chosen not to seek out certification.
A genealogy mentor is someone who is patient and a good listener, is willing to share their personal experiences relevant to the needs of the mentee. A mentor offers positive re-enforcement and feedback, challenges ideas, builds confidence and encourages professional behaviour. A mentor can help set goals, create action plans, shares critical knowledge, inspires, and takes value in another person’s growth.
Several years ago, I met a distant cousin online; as a result, he has become a wonderful genealogy mentor. Peter is a well-educated man who is retired and has been researching our shared family lines long before I even thought of starting my genealogy journey. He is well versed in resources and archives, and protocol and procedures. He has a basement over flowing with records (which he promises to show me one day) and a wealth of experience attained during his genealogy journey.
Peter created a group of distant cousins who share common ancestor lines. Most of us have never met, but almost daily and most certainly weekly Peter will send out a mass email to us all, sharing family information or general research material. If anyone of us stumbles upon a find then Peter mediates this find and it is shared with everyone. Often he offers up his opinion and impressions on the politics of genealogy and he is always very enlightening. His musings have often inspired me to write a post or two.
Peter is a mentor for the Internet age. The majority of all our sharing is done online mostly via email as most of us have never met and are spread across the world including Canada, the United States and Australia.
Many have never met Peter, and yet I have had that very privilege. Peter came armed with a trunk full of information and we shared a wonderful meal and a common enthusiasm. I’m hoping this summer Peter and I will get together again. In the meantime I looked forward to his long distance guidance and motivation via my Inbox.
Do You Want to Find a Mentor?
There may already be a mentor in your genealogy life, that person maybe standing right in front of you. Approach that individual and ask if they would consider mentoring you. At the very least, let them know why you selected them and what you hope to learn from the association. If appropriate for the specific individual, you can also discuss amounts of time to be committed and what you will contribute to this collaboration. You have nothing to lose by asking. Even if they decline to be your mentor, and few will, they will be flattered that you asked.
Do You Want to Be A Genealogy Mentor?
Be a mentor to a family member, a student, a fellow family historian. To be a mentor it takes a level of interest, commitment, and confidence in your own abilities. You must be sincerely interested in someone else’s growth. You will not win any awards, or make any money, but you will have the satisfaction of having done an important job, grooming the next generation of genealogists.
Some of us are lucky to have had a mentor in our lives and are eager to repay that honour, others just want to help, be a positive influence, and give something back to the genealogy community.
Your own genealogy experience qualifies you to be a mentor. The best mentors are people whose own enthusiasm for their genealogy is so contagious that they inspire others just by doing what they enjoy most. Share your own interests with a person who is just beginning their genealogy journey and pay it forward.
Whether you have a mentor or you have been chosen to be a mentor the experience can be an invaluable experience for both.