Friday, June 1, 2012

How Genealogy Can Be Inspired By Creativity

I have a stack of magazines next to my bed that are mostly a few months old.  I try to keep up with my reading so every so often I pull one out at random to read.  Last night's winner was the May 2012 issue of Real Simple.    I really enjoyed the article "Can You Get More Creative" by A.J. Jacobs.  The article follows the writer's quest to "reignite" his creative juices.  One of the big take aways from the article I read is that you need to let creativity hit you from all angles.  You need to nourish creativity and seek it out.

The left hand column of the article contained "7 Habits of Highly Creative People."  As I read each habit, I was struck how these same ideas could be useful for genealogy research.  Life lessons always seem to overlap many facets of your life.  So here is the list and how I would apply it to genealogy:

1.  Play - take time to flip though your genealogy paperwork or browse your digital file.  Just enjoy the stories of how your ancestors lived.  Take out your family treasures.  While you enjoy them, let yourself feel inspired.

2.  Borrow Ideas - Read genealogy blogs to get ideas for further research.  There have been many times that I have found a new repository or research technique from reading other blog posts.

3.  Sleep On It - When you hit a brick wall, it is always good to take a step back to re-evaluate what you know.  Looking at something fresh the next morning can open you to new ideas.

4.  Collect Every Seed Of An Idea - Keep a research journal.  Write down ideas about how to attack a research problem.  Make lists of repositories that could be useful.  Capture ideas for future blog posts.

5.  Embrace Constraints - I have ancestors from a 'burned' county in Virginia.  Instead of stopping my research into that family, I learned how to use new record types to get around some of the missing papers in the county archives.

6.  Commune with Nature - Get out and visit a cemetery.  Some of my husband's ancestors are buried within an hours drive.  It is time to get in the car, go pay my respects, and take a few good photos for my genealogy collection.

7.  Compete - Set a goal with yourself or a research buddy.  See who can complete that goal first.  You might be surprised what can get accomplished.  I compete with myself all the time.  I set a timer and see how much I can get scanned and entered into my genealogy software during the time limit.


  1. What a great way(s) to adapt non-genealogy ideas to becoming better genealogists. I particularly like #6, though it embarrasses my children.

  2. Great article, Sierra! Thanks for posting this. We all need help sometimes getting our creative juices flowing and genealogy projects are no exception.