google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html Tuesday's Tip- Avoid Becoming a Lazy Researcher! | The Armchair Genealogist

Tuesday's Tip- Avoid Becoming a Lazy Researcher!

The concept of being an armchair genealogist, or researching your family history in your pajamas was born out of the idea that a great deal of family research is done online from home and many of us have discovered genealogy through the internet.

As a result many armchair genealogists have subscriptions to, and the beauty of it lies in the extensive amount of research we can do from our lazyboy and laptop. The downside is that it can easily turn us into lazy researchers.

Let me ask you this, have you found a document for an ancestor, you know it's them, so you save it, unopened, telling yourself you’ll look at it later, when you have more time. You save it to your tree or shoebox or a file. Sound familiar, I know I have!

Let’s face it, at home there are plenty of distractions, kids, dinner, housework, telephone, TV and email, all can interrupt your research.

That document could contain important clues to your ancestors, clues leading to the next step, record or document, it could reveal an important part of their story, your story and yet you have quickly filed it, before even taking a peek.  

Let’s look at this another way. I know you told yourself you are saving it for another opportunity when you have more time to spend looking at it. However, how many times have you done that, have you noted it somewhere, do you have a list or a file of these documents you need to go back to and look at or are they accumulating. Perhaps they are not as important as other documents you are looking for and you have already assumed what it is going to tell you.

If you were rummaging through Grandma’s trunk, or scrolling through microfilms in a repository you wouldn’t be glossing over this record quite so quickly. You would treat it with the importance it deserves. There lies our crutch, with records coming right to our lap it is so convenient to not give them the immediacy they deserve. We’ve become complacent with how readily available these documents are that we treat them rather matter of factly. When we physically have to labour to find a document, it somehow holds more exigencies.

 It will be there for another day, and then another day comes, we jump back on Ancestry and start looking for more documents. We risk falling into the trap of becoming collectors of records and documents and not family historians.

We need to stay focused on the mission to uncover the stories of our ancestors and that cannot happen unless you give each document your undivided attention. Therefore, here are a few easy tips to keep you from becoming that lazy researcher.

§  Print the document immediately, with the document in hand it becomes more tangible, it will feel more urgent.

§  Extract every detail; the best way is to transcribe the document. Transcribe the document into a summary sheet on that person. It forces you to look at every fact and consider its importance as a part of that person’s history.

§  Consider what each fact means, not only in respect to the the ancestor’s story, but how it could open a door to the next piece of information.

§  If interruptions do occur save that document to a file, name it Urgent: To Be Viewed, and make it your policy to view these documents at the next available opportunity before jumping back on line to search for more leads.  

In our jammies, a favourite drink in hand, a couch, a laptop, who could blame us for getting comfortable.  However, when something becomes so convenient, we have to check ourselves, we cannot forget to do the work. 


Mavis said...

Great reminder. I have so much stuff safed in my Shoebox, it's ridiculous.

Lynn Palermo said...

Thanks for the comment Mavis, that shoebox was a giant black hole for me as well, I've stopped using it.

Kathleen Moore said...

This is a great reminder. I've been working on staying more diligent for the last few months. I'm not getting the same quantity done, but I am getting better quality and that's the real point anyway!

Lynn Palermo said...

Thanks Kathleen, I couldn't agree more.

pams4125 said...

Hi agree with everyone. One thing that the shoebox helps me with is that when I see that check mark I know I have already printed it and saved that document. It helps me go to the next document faster than looking at it twice or more.

Linda Gartz said...

Thanks, Lynn! With 25 bankers' boxes of original letters, photos, diaries, and documents, it's a daunting task to keep all straight and find the best way to know what's where. We made excel spread sheets of every box (#1, 2, etc) and an overall listing of what's in each box (e.g. Correspondence). But as you can see from my blog, that note "correspondence" refers to SCORES of letters: in my case in unreadable German script. That's just one box. Just figuring out how to organize just those letters (in one box), who they're from, the dates, if scanned, deciphered,translated, printed-- it's been daunting. I've reworked the system over and over trying to find the best way. I'll try to write up a bit of my approach.

I find info on scraps of papers, backs of envelopes. My latest idea is to just make a word document file: "Genealogy facts." When I come across some fact (like a note on the back of a photo that reveals the date my uncle was drafted for WWII) I type it into this one file, where I found the note and what it says, so I can always go to that one file to retrieve something. Later I can sort, but I have literally hundreds, if not thousands of little factoids like this.

Greta Koehl said...

Oddly enough, I have been pretty good about the documents I have downloaded; it's the some of the documents I mailed off for and acquired in a research trip that are still lying there, waiting to be transcribed and analyzed. It's as though I feel those documents are so important that I have to give them my long-term, undivided attention, which I continue to put off doing.

Michelle Goodrum said...

Excellent post. This has been my achilles heel when it comes to genealogy!

Jenny Lanctot said...

I truly enjoy reading your blog! I am pronouncing you "Ancestor Approved" ... the image and information is on my blog at


ScrappinAnn said...

Such great advice. Since my families are from other states I have done the internet research. Thankfully I am an info junkie. I do open and read and it usually sends me off somewhere else and I read and read and read LOL.. Gotta love it!

I am giving you the Ancestor Approved Award. Please visit my blog for the info and award.
Keep the great info coming!

Lynn Palermo said...

Thanks Jenny and Ann for the Ancestor Approved Award, I am honoured.

Sharon said...

A good reminder. I'm very good about entering everything from what I find on to my Rootsmagic database and documenting the sournce. I also save the document on my computer in it's correct folder. When I get to certain point, I blog about that family on my blog, including all those documents and even the saved copies of the original. It can be tedious typing all that stuff and sometimes I just want to save it to My Shoebox and keep going but I'm so forgetful that I will forget it and so I compulsively have to do it right then, even if it's 1:00am and I'm sleepy. Now, when someone contacts me I can just send them my blog post about that family and not have to re-type an email. I've also had so many contact me about my posts with more information, corrections, and compliments. Blogging was the best thing I ever did. And even if no one in the world reads what I blog about, it gives me a place to solidify my thoughts and document my interests.