Last week we featured Nick Thorne of the Nosey Genealogist as the first expert in our new weekly chat with the pros. In this series, we’re asking family history experts from many backgrounds to share their knowledge with us–quizzing them about favorite resources, common pitfalls and more.
This week, Thomas MacEntee, founder of the well-known genealogy blogging community GeneaBloggers, has shared his know-how with us! Thomas was also kind enough to share a fascinating article on family history comfort zones with Family History Daily when we first launched in 2013, you can read it here. Thanks so much Thomas!
Here’s what Thomas had to say:
1. If you could share just one piece of advice with fellow family historians, what would it be?
Take your time – family history is a journey, not a sprint. Beginners need to learn to harness all the energy that comes from a first time discovery and make sure they are being thorough when reviewing a document. Many of us have missed out on key evidence because we migrated to the obvious information and then went on to the next lead or clue.
2. What do you think is the biggest pitfall new family historians need to watch out for when conducting research?
Newcomers often don’t have a research plan, a to do list and a research log – for me these are the Holy Trinity of tools when researching. Otherwise I find myself searching and roaming on sites like MyHeritage or FindMyPast, not making progress with my research.
3. Can you share three of your favorite family history research resources?
Internet Archive has microfilms of the US Federal Census as well as digitized genealogy books and journals – all for free.
Fulton History has over 31 Million digitized newspaper pages, mostly from New York state where most of my personal research takes place.
Google Alerts allows me to be alerted when new information is indexed at Google – I set up alerts for my surnames and even ancestor addresses (so I can see when the home comes up for sale and a realtor listing has photos of the inside of the house!).
4. Aside from research resources, what’s the most important tool that you use as a genealogist?
A research log – it allows me to track all elements of a document: repository location, transcription or abstract, source citation, evidence evaluation and written summary of proof.
5. Please tell us about your most exciting personal family history discovery.
When I first started to get serious about my family history research, I discovered a written genealogy from 1916 – only 100 copies were printed – entitled The Genealogy of David Putman and His Descendants, 1645-1916. This small book listed my New York Dutch ancestors along my mother’s line. It was “crowd sourced” by my 6th cousin 5 times removed over 100 years ago: he wrote letters to every postmaster in every small town in upstate New York requesting the names and addresses of anyone with the surname Putman. Try doing that today!
Thomas MacEntee is a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community. He is the founder of GeneaBloggers.com, a community of over 3,000 bloggers documenting their passion for family stories and genealogy research.