Genealogy is often a solitary pursuit, and increasingly, one that is conducted primarily online. Last week, NEHGS welcomed 26 members and supporters to our research library in Boston for a program that provides three days of in-depth exploration of NEHGS resources. A preparatory webinar provided an overview of the program and tips for preparing for their research trip, such as searching the catalog in advance; making a to-do list and a research plan; and, most importantly, staying flexible. Sometimes the information we discover about our ancestors takes us in a direction we weren’t expecting.
The group arrived in Boston from fourteen states and the District of Columbia. They received an orientation to the library, lectures, one-on-one consultations with our staff experts, and the opportunity to keep researching in the library late into the night, after we closed to the public. The participants were able to talk to and seek advice from experts with knowledge of all the New England states, as well as New York, Atlantic Canada, Ireland, and the West Indies.
The group made use of the many sources available at NEHGS that are not accessible online – original manuscript items, thousands of published genealogies, reference books, compiled indexes, and, of course, our staff. While online sources are essential to genealogy, there is still no substitute for traveling to a library, archive, or record repository and digging into good old-fashioned research. I am reminded of this each time I see one of our members’ eyes light up when they realize they’ve found a new source to check, or watch them carefully turn the pages of an eighteenth-century account ledger, or hear comments, as I did last week, like “We might be cousins!” Some discoveries are all the richer for being made in person.