How many languages and cultures can a person deal with at once?

Well, strictly speaking, not in the same one instant. But with the research cases that I had open and was working on simultaneously, they might as well be. A mix of clients with English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish immigrant roots needed work done with records from both sides of the Atlantic. My Columbian client needed family traced from Spain through the Caribbean down through South America, so apart from the different jurisdictions and geographies, the records were primarily a mix of Spanish and English.

I had a German case with records written in 1800s German in Gothic script—I had my razor-sharp languages assistant helping with that one, because we had to do a full interpretation of multiple handwritten originals. And I had just gotten off the phone with another Australian client, so we would likely need to trace 1800s British shipping across the oceans.

These, of course, were all in addition to my normal U.S. clients, with research spectrums ranging from the Northern Yankee colonial heritages to stately Southern antebellum families and Midwestern migrations. My head was buzzing with the various languages, alphabets, strategies, political histories, legal backgrounds, and records systems necessary for different client interests. Though I have traveled widely and guest lectured on genealogy at Harvard, this was still a lot to worth with at once.

What a fantastic job.

Over the years, my clients have given me the opportunity to research records in a number of languages, to travel to archives on the other side of the globe, to meet people from more than a few countries, and to chronicle the histories of hundreds of families. It has been an amazing experience. This blog is an attempt to return the favor: to help you get the basic understandings, big-picture perspectives, and specific tools needed to find the history of your family.


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