Genealogists’ work is grounded in sources—in records, artifacts, images, traditions, and other items that provide information used as evidence. But sources and the information they provide are only part of any given solution to a problem. Skilled, knowledgeable, determined researchers go beyond the obvious facts found in sources. They capitalize on what the sources say and on what they only suggest, and even on what they do not say. Successful genealogists take time to learn about subjects related to the individuals, time, and place they are researching. And successful genealogists also take time to hone important skills, like observation, interpretation, logic, analysis, and creativity.
Creativity? Yes, that’s right. Research and analysis require a degree of creativity. For example, some researchers may look at an estate inventory and see only a list of possessions; more creative researchers will think about how that list can help them. Do any items on that inventory suggest an occupation, an educational background, an ethnicity, or membership in an organization? Some researchers may come across a family cookbook and marvel at its contents, thinking about the things their ancestors prepared in years gone by, but other researchers will analyze those cookbooks contents for possible clues about the family’s origins—perhaps expanding the inquiry to the study of foodways.
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