19/08/2013 10:29 BST | Updated 19/10/2013 06:12 BST

The Three Critical C's of Collaboration: Concern, Care, and Comfort

The 3 Critical C's of Collaboration: Concern, Care, and Comfort

One of the great hallmarks of the genealogy community is how much we can accomplish by collaborating with our fellow genealogists, family members, and professionals. Over the years of working in family history and genealogy I have come to follow what I call The 3 Critical C's of Collaboration: Concern, Care, and Comfort. Let me explain:

Collaboration is defined, by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as: "to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual or artistic endeavor". Its root is the late Latin collaborare, which means to labor together.

In my genealogy work, when I have collaborated as a team, we have ended up with some of the finest outcomes we could have hoped for. Many of which would not have been possible without collaborating.

Almost all of us, I am willing to bet, had an early experience in our genealogy/ancestry work to have had the opportunity to collaborate with someone or had someone approach us to collaborate with them. Sure enough, we all remember the adage of 'two heads are better than one', so we agreed. I know I did and I have to admit that at first I was a bit of a bull in a china shop. Then I came to believe in the value of my 3 C's of Collaboration.

Concern: In order for any collaboration to be successful you have to have concern for the other party in our collaborative efforts. To me this means concern for their ability level, the degree they're involved in ancestry, and perhaps above all what their timeframe/availability is for working on their family history. I have found that it is imperative that I hold my horses and not go off at the speed that I may want to when I collaborate. In life, as they say, 'sh*t happens', and we can never be fully certain what might be affecting our collaboration partner at any given time. But if we are patient and respectful of their needs and demands, we will more often than not reap wonderful benefits. It took me several years with one distant cousin, but the end result has been fabulous data, stories, and the optimum gift: old photographs and a quality friendship!

Care: It is important to proceed in a collaborative venture with care. We must care about our goals and our timeframe, but we must also be attuned to those of our collaborative partners. We must be careful in our progress to adhere to the quality of work product that we require for our work. Additionally we need to take care in thinking about the perspective that our collaborative partner may have on a given issue. I have discovered that often times, even with good, solid documented evidence to disprove or prove something, if it is at odds with your collaborator's view of that issue, care must be taken in proceeding slowly and carefully as you tread on this issue of family importance.

Comfort: On this 'C' I have to add this: Comfort (theirs). To be most effective we have to recognize that not everyone else's comfort zones are the same as ours. While we might be able to 'warm up' to a newly discovered cousin almost instantly, many folks take time to become comfortable with a happily crazed genealogist. As well, while we might be comfortable with all the conveniences that modern technology affords us such as email, scanning, digital photography, Facebook and other social media, others might not be. I have collaborated with many folks who prefer to use --- gasp --- the postal service, letters, and the telephone, but not anything beyond that. We must work hard to remember to conduct our work with them in their comfort zone for optimal results. If the postal service is the preferred communication vehicle, then use it we should.

Collaboration can result in some incredibly fine outcomes or they can just as easily crash and burn. I have found that if you keep these 3 C's of Collaboration as your principals, your collaborative efforts can be successful, fruitful, and wonderfully long lasting.

Onward To Our Past®