Re: Requesting help in your research #general

Roger Lustig <julierog@...>

To Carol's comments, let me add a hearty "Yes...but..."

First of all, *good* local libraries aren't to be found everywhere.
Here in the US many cities (New York, Carol's Baltimore, and my own town
among them) have great public library traditions, but that isn't always
the case, and in other countries the situation can be downright grim.
On top of that, some of us do live much further >from a decent library
than others do, and still others aren't able to go out as readily.

Next, there's the matter of centrality to one's research. Yes, pick up
bits of a language or two, get to know the geography of key regions--but
the Jews of Europe were a relatively peripatetic lot, and there's only
so many times one wants to do all the groundwork in order to figure out
a potential reference to a single ancestor or distant cousin. Getting
to know enough German, Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, and Latin might be a
lot for a Galizianer researcher; when it then turns out that someone
married into a family >from Saloniki or Mantua, I think it's perfectly
fair to ask the group (perhaps with a "reply privately") for a hand.

I think Dan Leeson would agree with me, not least since he and I have
answered one another's basic questions on other subjects in at least one
other forum on occasion. Moreover, some things *don't* come naturally
from basic research with maps and names; for instance, "Why was there
evidently a substantial connection between the communities of Town X and
Town Y?" may be old hat to those who know the stories and historical
contingencies, but could elude any new researcher for a long time.

The Internet is by far the most powerful tool for research ever
developed. (15 years ago it was already touted as "the world's largest
scientific instrument".) Much of its power comes >from its ability to
reduce duplication. But none of us has published everthing we know, let
alone everything we suspect, so that basic query may be what's needed to
coax the "missing link" information out of whoever might have it. (The
owner of the info may not even know of its significance until the
question is asked.)

When it comes to courtesy and proper use of the group, however, there is
one thing that members should do, though: search the message archives.
If the answer's there, then posing the same question to the thousands of
us is little more than noise. If someone has answered something
similar, email them directly. And if someone writes to you with a
question, at least write back to say you don't know. (I'm not always
perfect with this last point either, but I try...)

After four years of spending far too much time on genealogy and history,
I'm beginning to get a grasp on an area of about 6 counties, with *very*
basic knowledge of things outside of there. Do your homework; use what
references you can; see if your question has been answered before; but
keep those questions coming! They, not the answers, are often what
stimulates researchers in entirely different areas!

Roger Lustig
Princeton, NJ
researching Upper Silesia--parts of it more than others... wrote:

I am not picking on anyone in particular, but I have noticed quite a number
of quieries on Jewishgen asking for help when I think a little old fashioned
legwork is in order. I say this as a genealogist who has done things both
the old fashioned way and now the easy way--ask on the internet and have the
answer almost handed to you.

But you just don't learn the same thing if you don't go to your local
library (and I think most of us are able to do just that, unless you are the
Jewishgenner reading this on a submarine or living in a remote village in Mali).
What you learn by picking up an atlas and looking for the answer yourself is
immeasurable. You learn what cities or villages were close to the town of
origin for your family--and you will need to eventually search those areas
eventually. If you use a college library chances are you will find an atlas in
a language other than your own--French, German, Russian, etc. You will learn
to slowly begin to recognize names in other alphabets and you will learn how
borders changed. Pick up a book on doing genealogy research in a particular
area, and you will not only find what you are looking for but also discover
archives and resources you never thought of.

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