Genealogists Work Alone… Or Do We?

Most of my time doing genealogy research is spent alone at the Family History Library with my headphones on. I’m usually working for a client and don’t want to be disturbed, even though people still talk to me when I can’t hear them. You can often find me at a microfilm reader or scanner lip syncing to the music, tapping my feet, and sometimes even mildly dancing/swaying to the music. I’ve always been good at working alone.

Sometimes genealogists work in groups, and that works too. I am part of an indexing project, and often societies and SIGs will work together in the same way to index local records or cemeteries.

Rarely, genealogists work in pairs. (Well, it’s rare for me.) This past week, I had the opportunity to work with two different genealogists.

One of those people, I have worked with before. I have worked a number of jobs for him as his FHL look-up person. I arrived early in the morning and a bit sleep deprived. We discussed several clients, work he’s asked me to do and some he’s going to ask, then we went to the FHL. I did some look-ups in books and on CDs, later on films, but he mostly worked on the computer. For a while, we sat at neighboring computers, doing look-ups and talking. It gave me someone to talk to whereas I usually end up talking to the employees and volunteers, or myself.

The other one was a bit different; our personalities are a bit more compatible. I had just arrived at the FHL in a good mood after a party, which probably influenced the evening. I started by joking with him about working on the US floor when the International floor is more interesting. He told me about the family he was researching and how he wasn’t even “sure the man could see his own reflection in a mirror”. I suggested ways to search the census, most of which he’d tried, and we both tried searching some more. When he went for city directories, he pulled six films and we set up at neighboring film readers, each going through half of the stack, talking to each other, looking over our shoulders at the negative results we were both getting. I got none of my own work done, but it was a lot of fun to help with his.

I enjoyed working with both of them, though there was a lot more joking and “socializing” with the second example. With both of us trying various searches online and then sharing the film look-ups, things seemed to go faster and be more interesting.

Would I like to work with these two colleagues again? Absolutely! I enjoyed working with both. Would I want to do that all the time? Probably not likely. I still like to work alone.