5 Ways that Genealogists are Similar to Athletes

There are two concurrent “games” going on during the next two weeks — the Genea-Blogger Group Games here in the blogosphere and the Olympic Games in Beijing.  There’s been a lot of fun among the genea-bloggers talking about the competition.  Naturally, our competition deals with “nerdy” non-athletic feats like properly citing sources and writing.  There may be a few athletic genealogists out there, but more than likely the majority of us are more comfortable sitting in front of a computer or in a library than competing in races or breaking world records!  Olympians are the ultimate physical athletes – the cream of the crop.  While we genealogist will never be on par with Olympians in the world of athletics, there are a few things that these two disparate groups have in common.

1. We are Skilled – Athletes are talented individuals.  Although most of us possess the basis skills from which athletes build upon, athletes develop these normal physical skills in order to excel in competition. Basic athletic skills like balance, speed, and strength are developed and enhanced to achieve new levels of performance. Like athletes, genealogists need to develop basic skills in areas such as research or investigation, organization, and communication.  As we develop by applying skills, we begin to learn more specialized skills.  For athletes, weightlifters may develop a greater upper body strength, while runners develop strong legs and lungs.  Similarly, genealogists develop additional skills.  If you search for immigrant ancestors, you may become more skilled at passenger arrival list research than others.  If you have Irish ancestors, you’ll know more about Irish records than researchers who don’t have Irish ancestry.  Other skills that genealogists can specialize in include writing, interviewing, technology, or languages.  One skill that all genealogists develop is the ability to read bad handwriting!

2. We are Hard Workers – Little league players don’t become World Series Champions overnight; it takes a lot of practice and hard work. Likewise, you can’t learn the history of your family with the push of a button or a ten-second internet search.  Both fields of expertise require a strong determination – and a lot of sweat doesn’t hurt.

3.  We are Focused – Top-notch athletes set their sights on a particular goal or achievement whether it’s winning a game, breaking a record, or beating a personal best.  Once achieved, a new goal is set with the focus always on accomplishing the goal.  Genealogists also focus on a goal related to our research: find someone’s birth record, find their parents’ names, find where they lived during the census!  Once one goal is met, another takes its place.

4. We are Motivated – Without motivation, athletes could not be successful in competition – especially at a high level like the Olympics.  But getting to such a high level of performance requires a strong sense of motivation.  Genealogists who get discouraged easily don’t last very long.  A “real” genealogist searches through some microfilm all day without finding anything, only to show up and do it again the following week.  Athletes and genealogists don’t give up.  Someday, we’ll win that race or find that ancestor!

5. We Have Fun – Yes, it may be Hard Work…but would any athlete play the game if it wasn’t any fun?  Genealogists have fun, too!  If we didn’t enjoy it and couldn’t see the humor in our research, it wouldn’t be worth it.  Unfortunately, only fellow genealogists share a genealogist’s humor.  But, we like to stick together because we all believe that finding ancestors is fun stuff!

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One thought on “5 Ways that Genealogists are Similar to Athletes

  1. What very good points you make Donna! I never really thought about it but you’re absolutely right. The same things that make athletes successful make genealogists successful. Probably the one big difference would be the spirit of competition. Athletes seem to live to compete and test their mettle. Genealogists, I think, come from a different place. With them I think you see more of a spirit of cooperation. They seem to live for making connections.

    Thanks for a very thought provoking article. 🙂

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