March Madness for Genealogists
Basketball is in my blood–thanks to my father who was a star player in his day. I also played the sport for a few years and was the point guard for my high school team. These days, I no longer chase a basketball up and down the court, but rather spend my days chasing down my ancestors, calling genealogical plays from my laptop. But this time of year I turn my attention back to the sport and join the many legions of college basketball fans who are caught up in the phenomenon known as “March Madness”—cheering on, bracketing, and obsessively following their favorite NCAA teams to the “big dance.” But as genealogists we can take a page out of the B-ball fans’ playbooks and follow the path to our ancestors. Here are five quick tips to celebrate “March Madness” genealogy style!
1. Build your team. If you haven’t started building your family tree—now’s the time to do so! If you already have a family tree created in your favorite software program, consider sharing it with other family members who can help fill in the blanks. There are many free sites out there where you can build your family tree online for free. To read reviews of various sites by No1Reviews, click here.
2. Call some plays. The teams making it to the final four in college basketball successfully execute the plays designed by their coaches. In genealogy, a solid research strategy is the equivalent of a great play on the court. When searching for an ancestor, write down your goals, and note who, what, when, where, and why. Then jot down the resources you will need to get the answers you seek and where to find them (e.g. online database, courthouse, vital records office, family history library microfilm, etc.)
3. Practice, practice, practice. You wouldn’t go into a championship game without practicing. The same is true for genealogy. The more investigating you do, the better you’ll become at the research process. Read the genealogy magazines and Blogs to find out what new resources are available, as well as for tips on how to more effectively search existing records or databases. Don’t be afraid to immerse yourself in the process. Try every possibility and don’t give up if you don’t immediately get the desired results.
4. Full court press. You may need to schedule some intense sleuthing sessions—perhaps a few hours in the early morning, evening, or on the weekend to put in some quality time looking for your ancestors. Perhaps you can pick one particular online database (e.g. Ancestry, Footnote, FamilySearch, or GenealogyBank) and really explore it thoroughly. Repeat previous searches using different criteria to see if you may have missed something the first time around.
5. Celebrate your victories! Be sure to celebrate each finding, no matter how small. The genealogy “happy dance” is universal. Share your good news with your family via your Geni account, on a Blog, or with other researchers via social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook; or post updates using Twitter.
Just as college basketball fans show their enthusiasm about the road to the final four, many genealogists are just a passionate about their favorite pastime. If you’re “mad” about your ancestors, don’t sit on the bench cheering from the sidelines. Get in the game and make something happen with your family history today!