33 Ways to Become a Better Genealogist

33 Ways to Become a Better Genealogist

I love reading lists. I love creating lists. I love crossing off lists. And, if I could just keep track of where I put all my lists I would be in great shape! So, in an effort to keep this list where I can find it again, I will post it here. Maybe this list will help you too.
Click here to get free download of lists above
1. Make lists. List the books and articles you want to read, the court houses and repositories you want  to visit, things to search when you visit the FHL in Salt Lake, things you want to blog about, things that you want to interview your grandmother about, things that you want to search, things that need documentation, a list of where you keep your lists! Sometimes in writing the lists new ideas will appear, so go wild and weed out later!
2. Carry a notebook everywhere. Great for writing lists. I have a  recorder app on my android phone. I record myself ideas and thoughts to follow up on when I am out and don’t have a notebook with me. I love tech but I am still attached to great paper notebooks.

3. Get away from the computer. I can’t right now because I am writing this on it, but coming up for air is necessary and beneficial to see things more clearly.
4. Take breaks. Unstring the bow and focus of something else…
5. Clean your workspace. Cluttered desk, cluttered mind. Which explains a lot of my problems!
6. Drink lots of water. Being dehydrated never helped anyone.
7. Get feedback. Twitter, Google+, forum  groups, Facebook, are all great places to get some…some you may not want – so be careful what you wish for.
8. Be open minded. Sometimes genealogist can be a bit closed minded to new things and ways. Exploring new options, thinking etc. doesn’t mean you have to except them – just be open. Maybe, it will offer inspiration for you.
9. Listen to new music. When I work I like quiet or white noise. But when I am taking a break I like to listen to new music. Ideas flow.
New favorite: Chris Botti
10. Surround yourself with other genealogists. I have made some great cyber friends through social media and actual face-to-face friends from attending genealogy conferences. Great way to network and learn.
11. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Experience is the best teacher and learning how to do it better next time is priceless.
12. Don’t give up. Brickwalls are only challenges. Steep learning curves in a new area are only opportunities.
13. Don’t force it.
14. Do more of what makes you happy!
15. Sing, dance or take a walk.
16. Remove and distance yourself. Pretend your personal research is a client and not people you know. Sometimes our personal feelings and our personal “knowledge” get in the way of considering things that we would automatically check out for a client.
17. Take risks and think outside the box when it comes to breaking brickwalls.
18. Collaborate. Join forces with cousins, with society members, with other bloggers. Synergy has power.
19. Take a class, a webinar in some new area of unexplored research.
20. Get lots of rest.zzzzzzzz enough said.
21. Practice. Practice. Practice.
22. Count your blessings. Gratitude is always refreshing.
23. Open up any genealogy book to a random page and read.
24. Create a framework or system. Organize your week, your day, your research time, how and when you file, sort and purge.
25. Finish something – a request for a vital record, a microfilm, an article. Success breeds success.
26. Don’t think you know everything, one – its annoying and two – its impossible.
27. Invest in good equipment, software and tools that actually help you not distract you.
28. Be generous. What goes around comes around – payback is only a witch if you are.
29. Be balanced. Have something to talk about other than genealogy, because it is one – annoying to others, not everyone is as genealogy geeky as you, and two – people who aren’t genealogist will want to talk to you more.
30. Be humble. Being teachable is to be open to new possibilities.
31. Get inspired! What inspires you? Nothing inspires me like new stationary supplies…new pen, folder, notebook, post-it tabs…weird I know.
32. Join a study group. Tonia Kendrick and I are starting a new study group to study American Records. We will be using Val Greenwood’s The Researcher’s Guide to American Records and The Source (both editions) as our textbooks. Contact me if you are interested as there is a limited number that can join this go around.
33. Have fun!
What would you add to the list?


  1. Great list! I’ve made a copy and have posted it so I can see it at my computer desktop.

    I did a similar thing in my blog recently — “Be-Attitudes for Geneablogging (What I Wish I Knew When I Began)” [http://tinyurl.com/3g9x6ha]. My list overlaps your list in a number of places: Be Authentic; Be Passionate; Be Connected; Be a Learner; Be There for your Readers; Be Adventuresome; Be Happy; and Be a Miracle! My list focused specifically on genea-blogging, but relates to the general practice of genealogical research as well.

    Thanks again for a well-thought-out blog post!

  2. I love this list! Also, I’m interested in your study group. You can email me off list at cinamoncollins@gmail.com.

  3. Hi, Valerie. I just found your blog. What an inspiring list! I’d love to be part of your American Genealogy study group, if I may. I’ve only just recently started reading the book, myself, and it is so full of information. You can contact me at kristen_conway@ymail.com. Thanks so much!


  4. GeneaPopPop you know what they say – great minds think alike! lol Love your post and list!
    Cinnamon, Kristen and Burt I have added you to the list for the study group. More details to follow! Thanks again for the comments!

  5. Great article, Valerie. I saw this cartoon in the BYU Magazine and thought you might enjoy it. http://magazine.byu.edu/?act=view&a=2833&p=4343

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