Who’s Going to Win Your Family History Bowl?

I probably take the analogy of football to genealogy too far, but sometimes you just have to interject the game to break up the monotony. If not football, something else. Say “genealogy” or “family history” and watch eyes roll. Then again, say “football” and you might just witness the same response. 

But, over the years I have found that the best researchers are those who can think outside the box, call audibles, and scramble to avoid being sacked. Their approach is rarely replicated, each bringing their own to the game. Don’t get me wrong. There are standards and skills that make the game what it is, but each researcher has a style of his or her own. Like on the field, a successful player in the field of genealogy and family history is true to themselves, plays by the rules, and has an impeccable work ethic. 

For the first time in NFL history the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will host the Kansas City Chiefs for Super Bowl LV at their own stadium. Talk about home field advantage! With one exception—the world is still in the midst of a pandemic so there will be limited fans in the stadium. Win or lose, tomorrow it’s over, only for 32 teams to get ready for another season this coming Fall and to once again compete to arrive at the Super Bowl—Groundhog Day, NFL style!

This brings me to the 31-32[1] key individuals in your first five generations. Are there any that are the focus of your Family History Bowl? Is there some family history project you’d like to complete in the coming days, months, or year? If there is anything I’ve learned, it’s that a person can become overwhelmed when they take on too much at any given time. Imagine a quarterback attempting to sling a Hail Mary for every. single. play. It would just be too much and the defense would kill them!

One key to success in football and genealogy is pacing. In genealogy, similar to a team making a first down and maintaining possession until making that touchdown, a researcher must do the same. Each touchdown is another score that wins that Family History Bowl. 

So, what is a first down play?

It depends on your genealogical journey. Some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will tell you that their genealogy is researched back to Adam or as far as records will take them. I’m not sure how true it is or if the claims have been verified. Some lineages have been verified. Some have not. FamilySearch had a Medieval Families Unit that focused on pre-1500 A.D. lineages. It closed in 1996. There are plans to rework the data but these plans are projected to be accomplished in the distant future. Latter-day Saints with this dilemma, i.e., the research is finished, have been counseled to know their lineage and learn their ancestors’s stories. The rest of us have work to do in this arena. [And, those with *completed* lineages can focus on other aspects of *the work*, such as assist the poor, the needy, the sick, and the afflicted.]

If you have not collected what you know and know what has been verified, this is the place to start. Once you update what you know, my general advice is to make SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. 

Genealogy and family history goals typically begin with anchoring an ancestor to three dates and places—birth, marriage, and death—a tripod. Call this “core” information. In sports, the conditioned core of an athlete serves as a base to prevent injury among other benefits. In genealogy, the core serves to prevent errors always building on the last verified fact working back in time. 

So, what would be a S-M-A-R-T goal? Here’s an example of a genealogy first-down:

Diana Fink was born on 8 January 1895 in St. Louis, Missouri. Who were Diana’s parents? 

This first down question can be answered by going to the Missouri Digital Heritage website.[2]

We learn from this abstract that Diana’s parents were Louis and Amelia Fink and that both parents were born in St. Louis. We also learn Diana’s middle name, Adell, and that she was born at 2926 Montgomery St. with the certificate returned by Mrs. Bollhagen. 

Remember—this is just an abstract. The reference to the original is given at the top of the page. I also glanced through the list of Fink candidates and recognized that Louis and Amelia Fink also had a son, Louis, on 15 March 1900 in St. Louis and this should be noted. 

It is always recommended to trace back to the record closest to the original, with preference for the original, so you would want to request an actual copy of Diana’s birth certificate as well as a copy of Louis’s birth certificate. One record might contain additional information or more information than the other.

Does this meet the criteria of a SMART goal?

S—Specific—yes, Who were Diana’s parents?

M—Measurable—yes, acquired names of her parents from birth index: Louis and Amelia Fink. [I would send for copy of the original. It should also be noted that only DNA testing can confirm the biological relationship.]

A—Achievable—yes, thanks to the Missouri Digital Heritage website and access to a copy of the original

R—Relevant—yes, for family history

T—Time-bound—yes, in this case, it took me less than a couple of minutes, but, then again, games have been won in 8 seconds

As you can see, this search would qualify as a first down. There are other records you’d want to search to consider it “reasonably exhaustive” research and from which you might glean additional information. This handy chart can coach you on what records to seek to answer your specific research questions.

So, who’s going to win your Family History Bowl? You are!

Cheering you on from the bleachers!

If you have any questions, contact me.

Note:

[1] Thirty-one, if you’re single; thirty-two, if married

[2] Use your favorite search engine or the FamilySearch Wiki to learn what records are available in your particular area of research.

Copyright ©2021 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

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