Jan Murphy♦ (moderator)
Self-taught "pajama genealogist" since 2006. My formal training in data-handling comes by way of anthropological linguistics, which I studied as part of my master's degree in Linguistics.
My research interests are primarily focused on the 20th century and mid-to-late 19th century, mainly in New England and the South in the United States, and South Devon in England. I prefer to call myself a family historian rather than a genealogist because I like to study an entire social group -- a person's friends, associates, neighbors -- as well as the relations within the tight family circle. (Since I enjoy analyzing other people's data as well as my own, 'micro-historian' might be a better description.)
I enjoy working with primary sources, something that I didn't get to do when studying history in school. To me the journey is not simply about filling in blanks on a group sheet -- it is learning more about the times and places and how people lived -- how their lives were different from mine, and how some things are still the same. I enjoy talking about other people's research and brainstorming about different ways to search.
My toolkit includes Family Historian and Ancestral Sources, Behold, GenQuiry, Lineascope, GenSmarts, Scrivener, IrfanView, and the Scrapbook add-on for Firefox. I'm beginning a trial of Clooz, and GenDetective, and hope to test Evidentia and Zotero soon. Even with all these wonderful tools, I'm most likely to give you the same advice my high school calculus teacher gave me when we were starting to work a problem: "Get a piece of paper, and a piece of pencil, and draw a picture." Stack Exchange is great because the act of writing everything out and constructing a good question is a wonderful way to engage with a problem and get a fresh perspective.