24/02/2014 06:20 GMT | Updated 25/04/2014 06:59 BST

The Value in Being Multidimensional in Your Genealogy

Working on one's genealogy and family history is often quite like the proverbial saying about the forest and its trees. If your focus is set on finding just one detail, you might miss many others. Likewise if your approach is too scattered you risk missing an important detail, or more.

This is why I prefer, and suggest you might like to consider, what I call taking a 'multidimensional approach' in your genealogy and family history.

Unfortunately all too often there is much gnashing of teeth, arguing, or outright criticism over terminology and whether or not those of us who enjoy working on our ancestry are 'genealogists' or 'family historians', or some other nonsense. Far too many people get hung up on if you are a 'professional', a 'hobbyist', or something in-between. Also there is often an artificial distinction drawn between genealogy, history, is it academic or not...but as Lenny Bruce first said "yadda yadda"

To all this I prefer to simply say 'who cares'? This is because there is huge value in doing whatever mixing and matching you want in your pursuit of genealogy. Ignoring all the background noise and its often resultant cognitive dissonance can lead you into fantastic genealogical discoveries no matter what anyone else might think or say.

Following any and all leads, studying multiple angles to the same issue, taking novel and unconventional approaches even if others may well have (or will) dismiss them, can bring a genealogy brick wall tumbling down faster than it took Joshua to bring down those walls of Jericho. Additionally taking a multidimensional approach can lead you additional leads and discoveries that can be of significant and important use to you in the future on some other, perhaps unrelated effort in your family history work.

Certainly researching and using birth, death, marriage certificates, obituaries, census, and church records are crucial in anyone's genealogy work. So can working additional angles. I have found some incredible leads and information in completely unrelated sources such as history books, Masters' theses and Ph.D. dissertations. The same goes for newspaper articles that are on totally unrelated topics to genealogy and family history.

History books of all kinds have become some of my most valued assets in my genealogy pursuits. Military history, general history, city histories, union histories, government program histories, and many, many more have been gold mines in my genealogy. Not only do I gain valuable insight into the times in which my ancestors lived and the forces in the world that might well have influenced their lives and beliefs, plus often, hidden in those pages of these marvelous books, are incredible hints and tips on all kinds of family history and genealogy issues I am working on.

So be bold in your approach to your genealogy and family history work. The more dimensions you add, the better the chance for that wonderful thing we call serendipity to take place. The more avenues, alleys, and back roads we traverse in our genealogy and ancestry work, the more likely we are to find that road sign that will point us in the right direction!

What do you think?

Onward To Our Past