Do you have what it takes to trace your family tree through the ages? If you’re going to thrive as a genealogist—and more important, enjoy your hobby—you’ll need to possess these five characteristics:
Inquisitiveness: Genealogists are like detectives. Curiosity will motivate you to solve the mystery of your past.
Patience: Don’t expect to search a handful of Web sites, hit a couple of libraries and walk away with a complete family tree. “Genealogy is a lifetime pursuit that is never ‘finished,'” says Croom. “It takes time to research, to hear from queries, to receive materials from archives, and to learn about each place where ancestors lived and how to research ancestors from there.”
Politeness: You’ve heard the expression, “You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Keep that in mind when you visit courthouses, libraries and archives. Don’t waylay busy staffers with a long-winded account of your ancestry. Be courteous, be brief, and you’ll be rewarded.
Attention to detail: Sometimes a seemingly insignificant clue is the key to solving a family tree puzzle—for instance, the props in a picture might tell you when it was taken. Your success rests on sweating the small stuff.
Problem-solving ability: In genealogy, answers don’t always stare you in the face. When you uncover conflicting information or find that the record trail has petered out, you’ll have to think critically, challenge your assumptions and get creative.