Keeping up with blogs

How do you manage your blog reading?There are so many great genealogy blogs out there. (I’m flattered that you’re reading this one when you have so many choices!) I am delighted to be part of the GeneaBloggers community, which points me to new and existing genealogy blogs, but I know I underutilize it.

Today I’m pondering how I might do a better job of (a) finding genealogy blogs to read; (b) remembering to read them and (c) finding the time to do so.

So I thought I’d turn to my readers. You guys are such a great source of information. Would you mind telling me how you organize your genealogy blog reading? Do you use RSS feeds and, if so, what platform do you use to read them?I’ve been thinking I could create a Flipboard of favorite blogs but I haven’t even explored it.

I think this is one of those situations where I’m overwhelmed by options and don’t know how to go about researching it without it turning into a huge time suck.

Any advice is much appreciated! I’ll do a follow-up post with the results of this little poll so we can all benefit. (I’d also love to hear what your five favorite genealogy blogs are!)

Thank you!!

Photo by Shardayyy via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

When life gets in the way of genealogy plans

frowneyfaceI was so excited to go to the Midwestern Roots Family History and Genealogy conference this weekend. I’d heard from several blog readers who were going to be there and I’d arranged to meet some fellow genealogy bloggers. All that, plus the opportunity to soak in the knowledge of a two-day conference and a pre-conference workshop. That’s my idea of a great time.

But today I made the decision to cancel my plans to go. I have a long-time, beloved organizing client who has moved back to St. Louis and her belongings are arriving tomorrow, the day I was planning to leave for the conference. I’m committed to getting her moved in and settled as quickly as possible, so my team and I will be spending the rest of the week making that happen. I just wish the moving company had delivered her belongings sooner–they arrived in St. Louis over a week ago. But it can’t be helped.

I figured out a consolation prize, though. I’m going to devote Saturday and Sunday to genealogy education. I had purchased ten lectures worth of streaming content of the National Genealogical Society’s 2014 conference, and the opportunity to watch it is expiring in just a couple of weeks. So I’ll watch that and get a bit of the conference experience. I also plan to spend time reading some of the copious information I’ve gathered about preserving original family documents (the subject of the pre-conference workshop I was planning to attend). And I hope to spend some time with my  ancestor map and maybe do a little research on my Rasco line while I’m at it.

Committing to doing that work this weekend has made me feel better about having to miss the conference. I’m also buoyed by the prospect of the National Genealogical Society’s 2015 conference in St. Charles, Missouri, a mere 30 minutes from my house.

Trying out Ancestry.com family tree

Ancestry family tree screenshot from iPhoneThanks to the lively discussion here earlier this month about public vs private family trees on Ancestry, I decided to go ahead and create a GEDCOM file from my Reunion software and upload it to Ancestry. I  considered the pros and cons of a public tree, as expressed in the comments of that post (I so appreciate the comments!), and decided to make the tree private when I uploaded it, do some quality control, and then make it public once it’s ready.

I’d been keeping all my data on my computer in Reunion, rather than on Ancestry, because I don’t like to rely on cloud-based databases; I really like the information to reside on my hard drive. But I decided to upload the file for four reasons:

  • I’m intrigued by the prospect of the shaky-leaf hints (though I understand they often lead nowhere).
  • I would like to find cousins.
  • I would like to help others with my research.
  • I just did an Ancestry DNA test and I want to be able to link the results to a tree to give me maximum return.

So I uploaded the tree this week, which was very easy. But then I hit a snag. I am meticulous about not adding any ancestor for which I don’t have a source to my tree. Everything is sourced. But the sources don’t upload in a satisfactory manner. The source is noted in non-hyperlinked text. So the source is there, but isn’t as helpful to others (or me) as I was expecting. (I did a google search and apparently that’s just the way Reunion talks to Ancestry.)

The shaky leaf hints, though, make it easy to add many of these sources as hyperlinks that others can click on. So yesterday, I spent some time going through the hints, evaluating them, and adding them to records. I’m starting with the Rasco family (that’s my father’s mother’s family, and this quarter’s focus).

Two challenges came to the forefront immediately. One is keeping my Reunion software updated while I’m adding things to my Ancestry tree. (In other words, if I come across new data that’s not already in Reunion, I have to be diligent about adding it to Reunion as well as to the tree.) The other is overwhelm. I need to take this one person at a a time, and try not to skip around or get lost in exploring and evaluating other people’s research on my family members.

For the moment, the tree is still private as I get a handle on the source situation. But i intend to make it public soon. I’m already so grateful for those who have public trees.

I think ultimately I’ll be glad that I have put my tree on Ancestry. It seems to have potentially added another layer of complexity (and work) to my research activities–and I really do like to keep things simple. But once I get through this source situation, I think it will be great to have an online tree and I’ll be delighted if it helps others and helps me meet new-to-me cousins.

Making organizing easier

How to make organizing your genealogy easierIf you’re like me, the thrill of doing genealogy research is about uncovering clues and putting them together to make exciting discoveries. It’s about connecting me with others. And it’s about being a detective.

If you’re going to do a good job of putting clues together, your information needs to be organized. If you research without keeping track of your findings, your chances of success–or at least of verifiable success–are reduced. So, in my opinion, it’s critical to keep your genealogy information organized.

But so many people don’t enjoy the task of organizing information and papers. So they let an overwhelming backlog build up. I’ve chosen to make my living helping people get organized, so of course I enjoy organizing. But I know that for many people it feels like drudgery. If you’re someone who doesn’t like organizing your family history, how can you make it easier for yourself? I have some ideas.

  • Recognize the importance. Make getting and staying organized a priority by acknowledging that being organized makes you a more effective researcher. When you’re organized, you can easily put clues together and you don’t have to rely on your memory of names and dates–that information is at your fingertips.
  • Divide organizing projects into small chunks. To keep from being overwhelmed by your backlog, work on just a little bit at a time. Set a timer and work for a set (short) period of time. Or organize a small area of your genealogy space–a pile on your desk for example. Keep repeating until your backlog is gone.
  • Stay on top of it. Create a habit of organizing at the end of each session. When you’re finished with a genealogy research session, build in time to file papers or electronic files. Doing this each time you research will keep a backlog from forming again.
  • Jettison the “To File” file. Rather than putting something in a file or pile of papers to be filed later, just file it now.
  • Let go of perfection. There’s no such thing as perfectly organized–don’t even strive for it. Instead, set a goal of being organized enough.
  • Let it be easy. I always say that organizing systems should be as complex as they need to be and not one bit more. Don’t make yourself jump through hoops to put things away. (See my blog post How accessible are your genealogy materials? for more information on that.)

If you get through your backlog in small chunks at a time and create a habit of organizing as you go, you can stay organized relatively painlessly. And I’m willing to bet that if tend to resist organizing, this will make your genealogy research not only more effective but more enjoyable!