During my years as a genealogy researcher, I have compared research to the serious practice of working jigsaw puzzles. All the puzzle pieces clearly present the need for analysis and development of solutions. Albeit, the two activities differ in some ways, I share common elements between the two that contribute to successful solutions in puzzle work and genealogy research.
Engaging in jigsaw puzzle work involves handling numerous (hundreds or thousands) pieces and limited clues relative to accurately fitting respective pieces into the whole. An effective way to begin the puzzle work is reviewing a picture of the “finished” product and using this as a guide. For puzzle enthusiasts, the work is challenging and time-consuming, but also captivating. The activity presents a great opportunity to practice mindfulness by employing focus, evaluation and analytical practice. Upon completion, a finished product exists, demonstrating persistence and patience exercised during the puzzle process.
Similar to jigsaw puzzlers, genealogy researchers face challenges, working with limited leads and the need to analyze and validate relevant family data for inclusion in a comprehensive family history. Dedicated researchers definitely utilize mindfulness to maintain focus while identifying and managing data, leads and inconsistencies. Research is also time-consuming, challenging and captivating.
“Working” a jigsaw puzzle and conducting genealogy research are similar in the required time, evaluation, analysis and discernment used during both activities. While jigsaw puzzle work and genealogy research are not precise equivalents, the evaluation and analytic process for each is comparable in several ways, and reminds us how diligence is rewarded in producing valid results.
- A comprehensive puzzle image represents a guide to follow toward completion. The genealogy research process lacks the one comprehensive guide and involves clues and leads for numerous family branches to assist us in creating a comprehensive result or image. In research, we have guideposts along the way to channel our efforts along relevant paths. In this respect, genealogy research includes images or comprehensive guides, similar in theory to the completed picture used by jigsaw puzzle workers.
- In both endeavors, we may “freelance”, disregarding any guides as we embark on solving the jigsaw or genealogy puzzle. Experience proves this option is more time-consuming, frustrating and counter-productive when in either activity.
- Some clues to solution are relatively straightforward as in following the shape and coloring of edge-line puzzle pieces, or identifying evidence that directly relates to and includes documented sources for our compiled family records.
- Numerous other puzzle pieces or data require evaluation and analysis of the current comprehensive work and possible solutions or clues, and developing tactical or strategic steps toward continued puzzle completion or relevant research planning to find and validate additional genealogical family data.
Common requirements with jigsaw and research processes are patience, perseverance and objective discernment. Some pieces or research clues prove to be valid “fits” to the puzzle. Even more pieces or research clues require analysis and “trial runs” to determine the validity of placement.
Although genealogy research activity can be ongoing, the satisfaction of identifying a new family branch or significant source records to validate information is certainly equivalent with fulfillment felt by those who successfully complete complicated jigsaw puzzles. The time commitment, focus and analysis are well-placed elements for puzzle workers, whether jigsaw or genealogy.