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  • Writer's pictureDevon Noel Lee

You Are No Longer a Beginning Genealogist When...

Many genealogy educators and websites share a list of mistakes to avoid as you begin doing genealogy. While I made a list myself, a viewer sent in this email. Since I want to protect their privacy, we’ll just call her, “Lacking Confidence.”

“I think that I am completely opposite the norm in regards to thinking that I am better at something than I am. I lack confidence overall. I generally feel grossly inadequate regardless of what I am trying to do. Anytime I dare to have a bit of confidence in my ability to do something, an event will happen to remind me that I shouldn't have been so confident.”

Uh, oh!

Can you relate to these sentiments?

Genealogy Imposter Syndrome

Since I was a teenager trying to win a beauty pageant title, I struggled with anxiety and imposter syndrome. What’s funny is when I stopped focusing on the imposter syndrome and enjoyed the journey, I won two titles!

Thus, I invite you to stop focusing on the imposter syndrome and enjoy the genealogy journey.

But first, let’s finish Lacking Confidence’s email.

“I've been working on family history for over 40 years now and still feel so very much like a beginner in many ways, especially when I look back through my main family tree.

It was the first one that I started and there was so much that I didn't know about genealogy standards (and still don't).

But, feeling like a beginner keeps me wanting to learn more. It has given me an insatiable desire to read, watch, and learn all that I can, about genealogy.”

It’s very good news that feeling like a beginner encourages “Lacking Confidence” to want to learn more. And I’m honored to be part of her and your educational journey.

However, let’s balance the need to build confidence with the quest for more knowledge.

What is a Beginning Genealogist?

What are the attributes of a beginning genealogist? A beginner is someone who

  • Is curious about their family history.

  • Unaware of what a pedigree chart or group sheet is.

  • Unfamiliar with what genealogical evidence is.

  • Ignorant of where to find out more about their ancestors.

If that applies to you, welcome. Be sure to check out these posts for beginners to help you learn how to climb your family tree.

If you know what forms help you build your tree, the importance of gathering evidence, and have some idea of where to find documents about your ancestors, congratulations, you are no longer a beginner!

You are well on the road to being a good, if not great, genealogist.

If at any time you would like the assistance of an experienced heir hunter or forensic genealogist, check out our friends over at Legacy Tree Genealogists. and tell them Devon Noel Lee referred you.

What is a Good Genealogist?

My genea-buddy Randy Seaver has a great post called "Top Ten Characteristics of a Good Genealogist." I advise anyone who is trying to be a better genealogist than they were yesterday to review this list.

Now, I want to call your attention to one skill that we’re always improving.

Characteristic #4 is "Practices genealogical standards - knows Genealogical Proof Standard principles, cites sources, analyzes process and results, critically evaluates evidence, and reaches sound conclusions."

Good genealogists know the genealogy proof standard fundamentals and strive to apply them in their research goals. Notice Randy didn't say they ALWAYS or perfectly apply the genealogy standards. That implies that good genealogists are fallible. Thus, they practice so they get stronger.

Good genealogists will make mistakes. The difference is they do not beat themselves up about their mistakes. They do not feel imposter syndrome and think they know less than they ought.

Instead, they reevaluate their mistakes, learn from them and move on.

Therefore, I want to grant you permission to hold two viewpoints simultaneously.

  1. I will make mistakes.

  2. I am STILL a good genealogist.

↪️ Do you have these Free Research Guides and Tools to level up your research skills?

free family history research guides

Difference Between Beginning and Intermediate Genealogists

With that being said, I turned to Family History Fanatics fans and asked you to help define the difference between a beginning genealogist and an intermediate genealogist.

I love this comparison that Elke shares:

Difference between beginner and intermediate genealogists

Another viewer, Auntie Gen, shared several ideas, but I especially loved when she said:

Intermediate is when you take the next step to dive deeper into your research. You start looking at sources that are not "basic," or you look at the "basic" sources deeper with a different eye.

Many other fans weighed in on this topic, and I invite anyone who lacks confidence or feels discouraged to review these comments.

Once again, if you’re new to genealogy research, I’m glad you watched this video and hope that I can help you overcome the learning curve.

Be sure to watch the numerous videos on our Family History Fanatics YouTube channel and leave any questions you have. This is a loving and supportive community, and I read each new question posted to the research videos. I’m happy to help.

Continue Learning about Family Trees:

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