Genealogy Sleuth Work: Putting a Down Payment on Success


He is insane, of course. I imagine that the family history has become a mania with him.
- Hercule Poirot

Nongenealogists, especially those related to us, sometimes use the word insane to describe us and our passion for the search. We interpret their MM use of the word to mean that they do not understand why we spend beautiful Saturdays bending over microfilm readers or hot summer noons having picnic lunches in cemeteries. Nevertheless, their feelings need not stop us from enjoying and benefiting from what we do.

Yes, we benefit. We learn. That enriches us. We discover. That energizes us. We exercise the brain. That's healthy. We chuckle. That too is healthy. We meet other wonderful people. That's fun. We uncover and preserve the past. That's a legacy we pass down. We are enthusiastic about something. That adds zest to life. Perhaps we even develop perspective. That can have a balancing influence in life. And it is especially gratifying when one of the nongenealogical relatives calls to ask for ancestor information because "daughter Alice has a school project to do a family tree, and we don't have a clue."

Why do we do genealogy? In enlisting the support of Belgian detective Hercule Poirot for a particular investigation, a woman characterized Poirot in a way that could apply to genealogists as well: "You like finding out things. Things that you can't see the reason for at first. I mean, that nobody can see the reason for."2

Whatever drew us individually into the adventure of genealogy, we discover before long that it is a continual learning process. That is why we attend lectures, seminars, and classes. That is why we subscribe to journals and read books such as this one. That is why we hone our skills by asking questions and trying different approaches.

     Emily Anne Croom, "Genealogy Sleuth Work: Putting a Down Payment on Success," extracted from The Sleuth Book for Genealogists: Strategies for More Successful Family History Research, 2nd ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2008), Chapt. 1, p. 3; digital edition, ( : posted 26 Jul 2012)

This content is licensed to with copyright owned by

Add a Comment

*Spam Protection (finish statement)

We live on planet .