Become the Expert – Then, Collaborate

Burton Lee Roberts
Burton Lee Roberts

If anyone knows more about Burton Lee Roberts than me, it would be my mother – and I’ve told her things over the past five years she didn’t know about him.  He was my father for thirty-three years before his death in 1988.  While free with his opinions, he held his secrets close.  I peppered him with questions all my life about his family, growing up, military service and the medical profession.  He and I cleared land together, did electrical trim work over one summer and fished on a few occasions.  I got to know him better (understand) through my psychology and pastoral counseling studies.  He and I spoke of spiritual things on only a couple of occasions.  We later had our goodbye conversation when it became clear he would not live much longer.  I believed we were ready.  I was wrong.

My 2012 budding interest in genealogy, and Dad’s family in particular, brought multiple new facts and affirmations about his life to light.  And with those discoveries many more new questions I wish I could ask.  I peppered Mom and one surviving aunt with some of those questions.  I so wish I had become interested in genealogy earlier.  My dad’s sister would have been a gold mine of information.  She died in 2010.  Missed opportunity.

Now what?  I still know a great deal about him and continue to pursue missing information and historical tidbits.  I will tell his story – and stories.  As I’ve explained, I’m in the best position of perhaps anyone to do so.

What about you?  Whose life or family line do you know better than just about anyone else?  This makes you the closest thing to an “expert” on that line.  (Tread lightly here.  One definition of an expert is “a has been under pressure”.)  You have something significant you should consider giving it to the greater genealogical community.  How do you share it?

Collaborate

I use online trees and DNA to find new cousins.  My online tree is bigger, more expansive and less documented than the one I’m building offline.  It’s only a tool to find those new cousins.  These cousins know more about a particular part of a family line than I do.  They have access to documents and therefore documentation I do not have.  They often have photos and family lore.  This is when I let them “straighten me out”.  I’m ready to consider their facts and hear their arguments.  Trust, but verify.  When I find a researcher (cousin) who will not turn and run the first time we disagree, I find a jewel.  I treasure these people in my genealogical research and my life.  I could not know what I know today without them.  May their tribe increase.

My appeal to you

  • Do diligent research.  Follow genealogical proof standards.
  • Write and post stories to your online trees.
  • Find other researchers interested in your family line through online trees and DNA results.
  • Be ready to collaborate.  Be generous with your research.  Be open to having your work questioned.  If you’re right, best genealogical research practices will confirm it.  If you’re wrong, you’ve found what you’ve wanted all along – a more accurate representative tree of your family lines.

TIP:  When you’re contacted by another researcher and told you may be wrong (or often just told you’re flat-out wrong!), receive it and let them know you welcome their input.  Consider them a research partner in this branch of your research.  Check out their documentation.  If they’re right, admit it.  Tell them how right they are and how much you appreciate their work.  Right or wrong, let them know you appreciate their effort to assist you.

A cousin once contacted me and told me I might need to check a part of my tree.  They believed I was wrong about who and how I had a branch configured.  They shared with me their understanding of that branch.  Here’s the first thing I thought.  It’s unlikely I would know more or be more accurate than this cousin about this part of our shared tree.  I listened.  I considered.  Of course, she was right –  and of course I wish I always thought this way!

A “new cousin” recently contacted me and said I might want to reconsider some children I had attributed to a couple in my tree.  He sent me transcriptions of two legal documents with source citations.  He was right.  I did want to reconsider it.  His information introduced me to a new person in my tree previously unknown and resolved some conflict in my research.  Collaboration.

Become the expert in your branches of the family tree and then freely, willing, joyfully collaborate with others.

 

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6 Replies to “Become the Expert – Then, Collaborate”

  1. Good advice. I believe I am the expert on Jollett family because no one else seems to be studying them. Even when I find a new cousin, they rarely have research to share, but I live in hope!

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    1. Thanks Wendy for taking the time to comment. You encourage me and others. Hope is sometimes the only thing helping us “hang on”. Stay true and hang in there!

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  2. Great advice. Hope to do some more research after moving has settled down. Wish Mom had shared more with me–she was so reserved about the past. When her dementia set in, it then became, “I don’t remember.” Now shes gone. She never knew my dad’s birth name–just took what he said it was all his life.

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    1. Thanks Linda! Congratulations on your move. I’m very excited about your branch of our family. I came across a copy of your grandfather’s obituary just this week on the Lamar County Genealogical page. We need to meet in North Texas this spring before it gets too hot. (I say laughing after an 87 degree day yesterday.) Love to your family.

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  3. These are good tips thank you, sometimes I’m worried about sharing possible errors on my tree but then think that it is possible someone could help me – I don’t get many people contacting to collaborate – but am hoping someone does!

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