30    Oct 20100 comments

The genie in the lamp

the answer to our questions?Could a genie help solve your family history problems?

Although family history is becoming increasingly high-tech, there are those days when we wish we had a genie in a lamp.

After hours of fruitless searching for what seems to be a non-existent direct ancestor - although we know they MUST have existed or we wouldn't be here looking for them - it would be great to just grab that lamp, rub it a few times (depending on the version of the folktale you follow) and ask the emerging genie for help.

Genealogy conferences might feature workshops titled  "The care and feeding of your genie," "Getting your genie online," or "Polishing the lamp: Keep your genie happy."

According to folklore, of course, the problem is asking the correct three wishes, and we look forward to experts presenting workshops on techniques for constructing them.

Something else to consider: Would there be a difference between asking a polite question or giving a command to "dig up" the information we need? Does the word "wish" need to be included?

"Could you please find Uncle Melvin's birthdate" might bring a very different result from commanding the genie to "I wish you would bring me Uncle Melvin."

What are the three most urgent questions that your genie could help answer?

Like the Boy Scouts, we family history researchers should always be prepared as we just might find a dusty old lamp in a trunk in a distant cousin's attic. It could happen!

The list should include those essential bits of information we need to go forward with our research. Wherever we go, we should bring it along.

My number one question would be "Can you please bring me a copy of our 'lost' 300-year-old family history that disappeared in the 1950s?" What a gem that would be! If my genie could do that, I'd certainly be in awe of its powers.

My second question:  "Could you please bring me documented proof of our family's journey from 14th-century Spain to Mogilev, Belarus?" We know we did this, but not step-by-step as to how, where or when. Of course, if the genie brings me our lost genealogy, there might be much more information about their journey in those calligraphied pages in different hands, alphabets and languages, according to relatives who actually saw that family tree.

My third and last question - the biggie - is a problem.

In addition to finding much more information on various families I'm researching, I'd also want to find the vineyards of our 14th-century winemaker ancestor, referred to in a 1353 document from Lerida, Catalunya, Spain. Each time we visit Spain, I ask about his finca (lands), but so far, there's been no information.

Do we get only three questions? Can we get another three questions after a suitable time frame has passed? What do we know about the care of genies to induce them to answer more than three questions?

Most importantly, can we frame this all-important last question so that it covers all present and future research possibilities? Must we consult with an attorney to craft a "lawyer-speak" question to cover all possibilities?

Are there any attorneys out there - who are also genealogists - who might wish to take a stab at crafting such an essential third question?

What would you ask of your personal genie?

Are you searching for a lost family photo album? An heirloom that you've heard about? The truth to a family legend?

Be prepared. Write down your questions and keep them in a safe place. You never know when you just might find an old lamp!

In the meantime, keep researching and stay prepared.

One way is to keep adding details, documents, photos and more to your MyHeritage.com family website, which will keep the information handy, accessible, private and secure. Invite relatives to share in your discoveries and to contribute materials. Maybe one of them will find the lamp!

So - what would you ask?

Send in your three most urgent questions or tasks.

Perhaps, in this age of competition, we might find a genie who would consider answering  many questions from a group of people?

Search for your ancestors:

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