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Genealogy’s Amazing Race

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I’m not a huge fan of “reality” television. Much of it has nothing at all to do with reality. And as much as these programs claim to be unscripted, it is painfully obvious how scripted many of them truly are. Worse is much much influence producers can have on the final outcome, going against the desires of audience members and judges (I’m looking at you, American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, and Ru Paul’s Drag Race!).

One of the reasons I enjoy the Amazing Race so much is that by the nature of the game, there is little producers can do to impact the outcome. If a team doesn’t make to the mat in time they hear “I’m sorry to tell you that you are the last to arrive, and you both have been eliminated from the race.” Much of what I like  about the show illustrates the way we become successful genealogists.

First, you start off at some random point, not knowing where you are headed. You are given a clue that points you in a certain direction, and it is off to the races. It is up to you to determine how to get where you’re going, and to be observant along the way.

Once you successfully reach your goal, you’re given a new clue and a new goal and the process starts over again. Along the way you have to navigate in unfamiliar directions, often lacking the knowledge of exactly how to accomplish the tasks once you are given them. It requires you to be creative in your thinking. It will require a lot of learning, especially for less-experienced individuals. Then, at some point, you reach a pit stop. You take a break, rest and recuperate. Then it is on to the next challenge until you reach the final goal.

Ultimately even those who do not make it all the way to the final goal. But everyone comes out of the race having learned a great deal and are ready to take on new challenges. Even the lucky few that have met the final goal!

The one underlying theme of the show, however, is teamwork. Nobody gets to the final mat alone. Individuals are required to work as teams, working together and taking turns at tasks along the way. And teams often need to work with each other to reach goals along the way.

Does any of this sound familiar? Genealogists often start searching without any idea what to do. Sometimes we fail in our efforts, and sometimes we succeed. We learn how to improve our research skills. And through it all, we work with others to learn and search to ensure the best chances of meeting the major goal!

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