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What Kind of Genealogist Are You?

My husband and I are very different genealogists. I love research. I love the challenge of the hunt, the mystery waiting to be solved. I'll research anyone's ancestry just to have the thrill of following the clues. I just love solving the puzzle. Of course I also love finding my own ancestors!

My husband however dislikes research. He finds it tedious and a lot of work.  He loves finding an ancestor, or better yet, having someone else find that ancestor for him. He's passionate about his ancestry, but avoids the actual research whenever possible. Family lore is enough for him and he feels no need to find sources to verify that lore. If it's important enough to him, he'll force himself to push through the research but he'd rather I did it for him. He always says that if he were rich, he'd hire someone to do all the research for him.

I'd hate that, and in fact I often feel bad that I'm doing so much that I'm not leaving my grandchildren the fun of the hunt!

It seems to me that there are several types of genealogists -


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The Hunter or Detective: This genealogist loves the research. While they want to find their own ancestors, they'll research anyone's ancestry just for the thrill of the hunt. They are easily sidetracked from their own ancestral research by the challenge of solving a stranger's brick wall.

The Gatherer or Ancestor Collector: This genealogist loves to know about their ancestors but doesn't really enjoy the hunt. He/she is happy to have others share what they have found.

The Ancestor Finder: This genealogist loves it all - doing the actual research and finding that elusive ancestor but they only enjoy researching their own family tree, not the ancestry of strangers.

The Hoarder: This genealogist does lots of research, finds new things about their ancestors but refuses to share any of the information.

The Junkyard Collector: This genealogist gets excited over online Family Trees and merges them with his/her own. He/she never verifies anything or checks their facts. Before long they have a mess of unsourced information, conflicting data and facts that don't make sense. They'll have female ancestors having children at the age of 100, or men born 50 years after their spouse or children born before their parents.

The Scholar: This genealogist lives and breathes source citations.  Accuracy is everything to this research. You'll often find this person submitting articles to scholarly journals as the New York Genealogial and Biographical Record. Page after page of red edit marks from the editors don't intimidate them. They'll plow through their article drafts, refining and revising and making each more accurate than the last.

Office-991306_1920 copyThe Analyzer: This genealogist finds a new fact, then studies it and analyzes it carefully before moving on to the next bit of research. They use each fact as a stepping stone to more research. They verify every piece of information they find and they view it critically, thinking about what it actually means and what other clues might be gleaned from it.

The Planner: This genealogist is a faithful keeper of research logs. He/she creates research plans and follows them. They are extremely organized in their research and meticulous about planning before they go on a research trip

The Writer: This is the genealogist who is driven to write the stories of the ancestors. Some publish the books they write and offer them for sale, others write only for their family.

I'm not judging any specific type as the best or the worst except the junkyard collectors who make me shudder and shake my head in bewilderment.

Some of us may fit more than one category. I am definitely a Hunter-Detective and a Writer but I'm also a little bit of a Scholar. I don't live and breathe source citations but I have submitted articles to scholarly journals and I've faced the red editing pen with determination. I'm also an Analyzer.  My husband on the other hand is a Gatherer. He doesn't seem to fit any other categories.

Where do you fit in?

Lorine McGinnis Schulze is a Canadian genealogist who has been involved with genealogy and history for more than thirty years. In 1996 Lorine created the Olive Tree Genealogy website and its companion blog. Lorine is the author of many published genealogical and historical articles and books.


Credit: Images are from Pixabay with License: CC0 Public Domain


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Great article, love the descriptions. Could you please send to the Australian Family Tree Connections magazine for Australians to read OR could I refer to it in an email a to them? Like others I detest the junkyard collectors, they won't check anything they find on-line etc., and they and others like them consistently copy and do no research of their own.
After 30 yrs I'm HUNTER/DETECTIVE/FINDER/ ANALYSER; I only have time to write articles and send to the AFTM magazine but I'd love to find time to write a book on some of my 12 trees, especially my own lines.

Hi Carole

Thank you for your kind words. Here is the link to my article Please do send the link to others so they can come to this blog to read it.

Hi Eileen, thanks for sharing your thoughts! I love your enthusiasm for genealogy and I had to chuckle over your description of "toxic waste" of the genealogy world! Very well put!

I am a hunter-detective but am one to get involved with other hunters, my children hopefully can solve my brick wall ancestors.

Junk Yarders always want to brag about their research and family connections to anyone who will listen in an effort to feel better about themselves, usually they are poor, lazy researchers.

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