“No time is ever wasted doing research, if we learn,” said Marian Smith at the opening session Wednesday morning of the 2013 annual conference of the National Genealogical Society. “Some questions take years of work to answer,” she said. But along the way we learn about persons, places, events, economies, and societies. This information helps explain some of our ancestors’ decisions. “You can never learn too much about the historical background,” she said.
Smith’s address was titled “People, Policy and Records: The Importance of Historical Background.” She is the chief of the Historical Research Branch of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service, since 1988.
Smith presented the story of her research project to uncover the author and origins of the Morton Allan’s 1931 book Morton Allan Directory (or “MAD” as she sometimes wanted to call it.) Genealogists have used it for generations to identify ships, ports, and travel dates to facilitate passenger list research. (It can be searched on Stephen Morse’s One Step search website.)
Four points sum the major lessons learned by her experience:
- Some questions take years of work to answer.
- No time is ever wasted doing research if we learn more.
- Be prepared to be surprised.
- Question your sources.
The session was sponsored by Archives.com whose representative, Amy Johnson Crow, shared a bit or two of information. People had a lot of questions when Ancestry.com bought Archives. As they said they would, Ancestry has kept the Archives name, kept Archives separate, and improved the offerings. They’ve added new content, including the UK Census, Griffith’s Valuation and records of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). They’ve upgraded their image viewer. They have a new weekly series of live stream videos. Look for improvements in search and browse later this year.