Genealogy should not be a solitary passion. Use the buddy system!

penguin computerI bet you are sitting alone in front of your computer as you read this. Maybe you were doing some browsing on social media including Twitter, Facebook, or whatever your favorite ones are. Last evening did you spend time on a free or subscription genealogy website? Is your genealogy software data entry up-to-date?

If your head was recently burrowed into reading a microfilm at a library or looking something up online, those are usually solitary tasks.  I recently had some experiences that have helped cement my feeling that most of us spend too little time with other human beings as we seek out our family history.


  1. I recently did 17 presentations at genealogy events in a five week period. A common theme among attendees was that they were learning so much from me and from others in attendance. They were talking, sharing, and asking questions. One person would suggest to a new acquaintance that they the contact a specific person in some state for help. People were introducing first-timers to others that had family in the same areas. More than one person said it had been a while since they attended such an event and it had them reinvigorated and full of new ideas for research.
  2. One presentation I love to do is What Next? Developing Step–by–Step Research Plans. Part of this involves the audience viewing some documents and then we verbally share the steps that should be on our research plan based on that document. It also includes some points in the documents that appear to be confusing or not in line with what we expect. I then ask the audience to raise their hands if they heard a research step or idea from another audience member that had not even occurred to themselves. Generally, more than 3/4 of the audience raises a hand.
  3. One last item is that I recently spent nine days in another state with a long-time friend. We met in the 1990s and she is also a genealogist. We had some social activities planned, but the bulk of the time was to be for our genealogy businesses and own genealogy work. We both found that we accomplished a lot more and more in-depth work than we usually do when working alone in our own home offices. It is more of an accountability thing. If the other person is diligently working, you feel less like goofing off. It also meant I had someone at hand with whom I could sit and discuss a research problem.

The bottom line to all this?

Stop doing so much of your family history work alone. Find a buddy or two with whom to share some work hours. Meet for several hours at one of your homes or at a study room in the local public library. Have a task list of what you plan to accomplish. Don’t bring along a whole box of things to do. Choose 1-3 items for that day. Save part of the time for discussion and the enrichment of sharing. Can’t read some words in an old document? You have other eyes to look at it. Can’t figure out what to do next to find that missing birth date? Use the minds of those buddies.

Don’t know anyone for this buddy work time? Join your area genealogical society and go to the meetings and events. Volunteer a bit. This is how to meet your genealogy buddies.

Need to find a genealogy society?

Try the Federation of Genealogical Societies list of societies

Do a search on Cyndi’s List at the top of the page or under Categories: US > state name > Societies and Groups  or US > state name > counties > Societies and Groups


© 2015, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.

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9 comments on “Genealogy should not be a solitary passion. Use the buddy system!

  1. Thank you for this reminder. Having recently moved, I lost a lot of my genealogical buddy system that I can access on a more daily basis. However, I cherish the time I get to spend traveling to conferences, institutes or to Salt Lake City for research time with friends. Those times are more precious now. I have joined several clubs and am working on making new local friends, but it is such a slow process! I didn’t realize how much I’d miss it until it was gone! Sometimes I go to coffee shops to work, to at least be among the living…

  2. Paula, once again you have hit on a very important topic. There is a sense of accountability when someone is focused on the task at hand.

  3. Great advice, Paula, couldn’t agree more. Earlier this year, two friends and I had a ‘brick wall day’ where we each brought a brick wall to see how far we could get between the three of us. It was amazing how much knowledge we had between us, and how brainstorming together helped. At the end of the day, we had solved two out of three brick walls!

  4. Very good advice! I was a closet genealogist for years until I found an aunt that was doing the same thing as me and we starting comparing notes at family reunions. What really started my genealogy education was becoming a member of a local genealogy society. And guess what? It’s even more exciting now!

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