“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” ~~Jim Rohn
Jeff Goins included this quote in a recent newsletter and it got me thinking. If we are shaped by the people whom we surround ourselves, what about our ancestors? No doubt that they were influenced by other family members and the neighbors.
But what about our perception of our ancestors? What shapes that “sense of identity” that we form about them? Since we can’t speak directly to most of them, we have to rely on the records they left behind.
The question we need to consider is “What records are we surrounding them with?”
The 5 Records
There are 5 basic records that we look for and tend to be the ones we spend the most time with:
- Birth record
- Marriage record
- Death record
- Either an obituary or a tombstone
These can be great records. We need to look for them! (I won’t go into why we need to look for our ancestors in every census; I’ll leave that soapbox for another time!) The problem is when we stop with these records.
The Problem With Averages
Averages don’t give a complete picture. They don’t reflect the high points and low points. They don’t show the oddities. They only show the middle ground.
The 5 basic records put together a framework — an average — of that person. But there are so many more records that can fill in the highs and the lows, the everyday facts and the outlier events.
Military. Probate. Church. Court. Newspapers. Diaries. Land. Tax. School. Guardianship. Pension. Institutional. Organization. Business. License. Letters. Each of these — and many more — will add something new to the equation and can change that “average” view that you have.
It’s easy to fall into a rut with your research. Don’t feel bad — it happens to all of us! Take a look around and ask yourself if you’re letting your ancestors be the average of just 5 records. Then ask yourself what will be record #6 and beyond.