Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Baker's Dozen - Traits Of A Family Historian


a distinguishing quality (as of personal character)

A posting of What Does It Take To Be A Successful Genealogist on the Genoom Blog and Are There Common Traits All Genealogists Share? on Elyse's Genealogy Blog prompted me to compile my list of traits.

For me, most traits are things you are born with, although they can be acquired if you are hit over the head often enough. Knowledge; citing sources, research techniques, even organization can all be learned provided you have the necessary traits.

  1. Self-Discipline - Must be a self starter and able to often work alone.
  2. Common Sense - if it looks too good to be true . . .
  3. A Logical Mind - able to make a whole pie from the pieces.
  4. Curiosity - You must love a mystery, as life is filled with them.
  5. Generosity - family history is all about giving.
  6. Tenacity - like a dog shaking a bone, never give up.
  7. Discretion - many of the things we find will require it.
  8. Luck - Hopefully "Good Luck." I'll take luck over skill any day. In my case if it weren't for "bad luck" I wouldn't have any at all.
  9. Enthusiasm - the drive to learn something new everyday. The reason you get out of bed every morning.
  10. Conscientiousness - If you say you're going to do it, do it. Even if you only say it to yourself.
  11. Humility - Don't worry. If you don't have this trait you will soon acquire it.
  12. A Keeper - both personally and professionally. All the Family Historians I know are keepers. Our families couldn't do without them.
  13. Intelligence - Be smart enough to know you don't know everything.

Want To Add Something?
See Trait No. 5


Blogger Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

Congratulations on being named one of the 2010 Family Tree Magazine 40 Best Genealogy Blogs!

Bill ;-)

Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"

February 23, 2010 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Thank you so much, Dr. Bill and good to see you!

Don't tell anyone, but blogging is hard work.


February 23, 2010 at 12:46 PM  
Blogger Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

Love your list of 13 traits... being able to enjoy the hard work is another trait.... ;-)

February 23, 2010 at 1:17 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Dr. Bill:

"...being able to enjoy the hard work" is a hearty Pioneer stock trait. I agree!


February 23, 2010 at 1:26 PM  
Blogger Greta Koehl said...

This list really sums it up. Probably #7 and #8 have helped me the most. I usually have horrible luck, but it's been a different story in genealogy. And 5, 7, and 11 are easy ones to forgot, but they are just as important.

February 23, 2010 at 2:16 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Thanks Greta.

You know, because you have it, you may underestimate #2. I think commonsense is indispensable.


February 23, 2010 at 3:04 PM  
Blogger Lori H said...

Congratulations on your Top 40 status! (Although you were already "tops" with me!)

I love this list! Curiosity is certainly a necessity and I have often needed that tenacity to find the information I needed. Before my children had their own computers I also had to have "selective hearing" so I couldn't listen to them complain about how long I was taking on the computer!

February 23, 2010 at 3:20 PM  
Blogger Mavis said...

Congrats on being recognized in Family Tree Magazine.

Love this list. #1 is my hardest thing. All the other traits I seem to have but am sorely lacking in self-discipline.


February 23, 2010 at 3:28 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


Thank you! I was really honored.

I love your "selective hearing." At our house we call it "selective deafness." Ah, I know it well.


February 23, 2010 at 3:29 PM  
Anonymous Luckie said...

You nailed it fM! While all essentials - numbers 5, 8 & 11 will allow you to go the distance, as they all generate Good Karma! Congrats on being named to FamMags Top 40 ~ I can't think of a more deserving lass!:-)


February 23, 2010 at 3:32 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


Thank you for the congratulations. I was very fortunate.

I agree with your assessment of #1, and a compliment to it is consistency. Here is where I often drop the ball.


February 23, 2010 at 3:37 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


Thank you for the congrats. And back at you. I keep good company. I was so very pleased to see your name included in this terrific list.

5, 8, & 11 are the pathways of life. As you said, good Karma.


February 23, 2010 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger Joan said...

One of he things I liked best about your list was that I had the opportunity to read it again and again and again as i checked out the items that were noted by your readers. O goodness, and I said that without taking a breath -- or a period or a comma. 13 great items for reflection.

Congrats on the FTM top 40 --- most well deserved.

February 23, 2010 at 7:43 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Thank you Joan! You know how much I admire your work.

My opinion is that commas and periods are highly overrated and often get in the way of a fine writer completing an exquisite thought as it is transferred to the page in one pure stream emerging unmolested from the brain to the hand. Whew!


February 23, 2010 at 8:01 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Congratulations on Top 40! Very well-deserved. And I like your list.

February 23, 2010 at 9:27 PM  
Blogger Lisa / Smallest Leaf said...

Great list, footnoteMaven.

I excel at #12 - I keep everything! :)

It is great for inspiration to write stories of family history, but often challenging to manage the family archive within one's home. Yikes!

I'm up to my ears in heirlooms, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

100 Years in America
Small-leaved Shamrock
A light that shines again
Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture

February 25, 2010 at 4:52 AM  
Blogger TCasteel said...

Add: Loves mysteries ;-)
Congrats on being named "TOP 40"!

February 25, 2010 at 8:22 AM  
Anonymous Sanjay Maharaj said...

Excellent choice of a dozen traits. I guess these traits applies to anything you do in life. The the that really caught my attention was item number 2. When we were growing up my dad alwasy told us to use our CS in his words which meant common sense. Common sense is perhaps the basic ingredient for excellence in what ever you do. Thanks for th elis tof dozen traits.

February 26, 2010 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger my Heritage Happens said...

#2 also caught my attention. I have always said people need to have common sense to get along in life, period. Unfortunately there are many people who don't have basic common sense.

I want to tell you HAPPY 3rd BLOGIVERSARY to you! Looking forward to many, many more!

February 27, 2010 at 9:03 AM  
Anonymous Beccah said...

I definitely have most of these traits. My family takes advantage of it, too. I'm the keeper of all things with any family historical value!

February 28, 2010 at 6:59 PM  

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