Monday, April 12, 2010

52 Weeks of Genealogy Sources: Week 10, The Tattooed Genealogist

On Saturday I spoke to the Genealogical Society of Riverside.  We had a great time discussing the topic of women of the American Revolutionary War and how to better research women ancestors.

About a week ago, one of my son’s thought it would be funny to affix a tattoo on my arm.  It was one of those tattoos that kids get in bubble gum machines.  He thought it would be funny and who am I to get in the way of a child getting in on some fun at his mother’s expense.

So for a week I have had a tattoo of a cat with lightening bolts on my right arm.  To be honest I had forgotten about it.  I incorrectly assumed it would quickly wash off but it would seem that those tattoos has some staying power.

So as I was leaving for my presentation, my cousin pointed out to me that my shirt sleeve did not cover my tattoo.  My kids thought this was the funniest thing they had ever seen.  They started laughing that I was now “The Tattooed Genealogist.”

It got me thinking.  One of my main messages in my presentations is that in order to break down brickwalls you must enlarge your way of thinking about what genealogy and genealogical research is.  Genealogy is more than gathering names and dates and seeing who can get back to the 1500’s the fastest.  It’s about the incorporation of social history with your genealogy so you can know the stories behind your ancestors.  What was their lives like? Names and dates bore people, it reminds them of their school history classes.  Stories about an ancestor's life tells others how that ancestor truly lived, they become a real person and not just a name and a date.

So I try to point out all of the different places you should be researching.  I try to get the message across that at some point you need to stop typing a name in an online subscription site and research the locality of where your ancestor lived.  What manuscripts and records exist for that area?  What were other people writing about your ancestor?  What places did you ancestors leave information about themselves whether as a patient in a midwife’s diary, a store ledger or someone’s birthday book. 

I truly believe by expanding the way you think about genealogical research, you in turn find more records that tell the story of your acnestor’s life.

So yes, I am The Tattoed Genealogist. No, I have no “real” tattoes but I want genealogists to be different. My idea of genealogy is different than some and that is my mark. I want family historians to research their ancestor's lives using a comprehensive toolbox, if you will, of  repositories as well as records.

Need some help thinking of new and different places to look?  I couldn’t have made a better list than Lou Szucs' 300 that she published over several issues of Ancestry Magazine.  Print these out and laminate them and refer to them over and over again.


Linda McCauley said...

Gena, Just in case you need this for future reference - a little alcohol on a cotton ball should remove a temporary tattoo. (At least it always worked for sports related tattoos I put on my face.)

Gena Philibert Ortega said...


Thanks! I will need that information in the future.


Celia said...

Gena - love your blog, and this one yet again has great information for every geneaholic!
Your "County Sources" link goes back to the "Home Sources" page - has anyone told you that yet? Don't you love link errors!!
As for tattoos - I've always thought those temporary ones helped us show the world that we're a leeetle bit different from the average!! Cheers - Celia

Gena Philibert Ortega said...


Yes, someone else pointed out that link error and I have it now fixed. Sorry about that! Thanks for your kind words.


Celia said...

Wow that was fast, Gena - I just checked before I went offline - and there it is, fixed already. Thanks so much. I want to provide some clues for beginners in genealogy to search through blogs, get to see what ideas, resources, problem-solving techniques, creative thinking etc. is available if people will just look - yours being one of the great examples. So I'll now wave these around as a few possible "TREASURES" for them to find! ... Celia