What does success look like in 2015?

Setting genealogy goalsI’m an unabashed goal-oriented person. I don’t always achieve all my goals, but I love having something to strive for.

I’m realizing, though, that I don’t really have goals for my genealogy research. I think if I had them, I’d feel better about my progress. So before the end of this year, I intend to put together a short list of genealogy goals for 2015. I think it will help motivate me to do research when I don’t feel like I have time. And it should also keep me focused in my research.

What will my genealogy goals look like? I don’t know just yet. But the things I’m going to consider are:

  • Building my family tree up (into new generations) versus building it out (adding more collateral lines)
  • Visiting more cemeteries and/or research libraries
  • Attending conferences
  • Reaching out to cousins
  • Getting and keeping everything organized (that’s a work in progress, of course!)

While achieving goals is important to me, I believe in rewarding myself for progress, rather than results. Along those lines, I think would also be wise for me to set a goal for the amount of effort I put in. So I think I’ll include something like, “Spend at least 30 minutes twice a week” on genealogy. That could be doing research or organizing my research. Thirty minutes twice a week doesn’t sound like much, but it amounts to 52 hours over the course of a year, and 52 hours is significant!

On or before January 2, I’ll post my short list of goals here. What about you? Do you set annual goals for your genealogy research? If not, do you think you might start?


Organizing little by little

calendarsnippetHere’s one thing I know: Getting or keeping your family history research organized doesn’t happen without a little effort. (Of course, that’s true of organizing most aspects of our lives!) There never seems to be enough time to do genealogy research, let alone time to organize it.

But if you snatch little pockets of time to catch up on your organizing, you can make great strides. For example, 15 minutes spent on filing unfiled genealogy documents (either electronic or paper) is time well spent. It allows you to familiarize yourself with your documents and the holes you have in your research. It makes you feel more in control. You can get rid of any duplicates you come across. And, of course, it helps you find what you need when you’re looking for something, because documents are where they’re supposed to be.

One thing that can help is keeping an organizing task list so you can jump right into it when you carve out some time for it. My new genealogy to-do list helps me know what to work on when I have some time for research. But I think it’s a good idea to spend some time at least once a week organizing the research. Toward that end, I think that in addition to having a genealogy to-do list for each branch of my family, I’ll make one for organizing tasks. That’ll make it easier for me to just do something. (I’ll be posting a Genealogy To-Do List printable very soon so you can use my form, if you’d like.)

So here’s my challenge for you today: Think about how often you want to do family history research. And then think about when you might work on organizing your research. In this last month of the year, maybe you can carve out a little time for organizing. Doing it little by little, you’ll make progress. If you wait for a free weekend when you feel like organizing, you may never get it done.

Like many people, I have a very busy December coming up. But I’ve found that I get more done when I’m really busy. So for this December, I’m going to commit to spending at least a half hour a week organizing my genealogy research. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up two hours over the course of the month (actually, two and a half, since December started on a Monday this year). And one can get a lot done in two focused hours. To set myself up for success, I’ve scheduled five half-hour sessions on my calendar.

I’ll try to keep track of what I accomplish in that time and at the end of the month, I’ll post my progress here. I hope to be pleasantly surprised by all I can get done in those little, focused pockets of time.


Figuring out how you’re related

How are you related?A lot of people, even some genealogy enthusiasts, can get confused about how they’re related to extended relatives. Last week, the popular website Lifehacker posted an article called “Second Cousins” “Once Removed”, and more Explained in Chart.

My husband, Barry, and I were discussing that article at dinner and he said he didn’t understand why such a complicated chart and long article was necessary. “It’s very simple to figure out,” he said.

“Show me,” I replied. (I live in Missouri, after all.)

So he did. And it was simple.

Herewith, Barry’s method for figuring out how you’re related to someone. There are four steps.

  1. Figure out the ancestor you have in common with the person in question.
  2. Count the number of times you say “great” and “grand” in describing that person. (For example, my great great great grandmother would be four, one for each great and grand.)
  3. Do the same with the person you’re trying to figure out your relationship to. (For example, if the common ancestor is that person’s great great grandmother, their number is three.)
  4. Look at the numbers. Whichever is lower, that’s the degree of cousins, and the difference between the the two numbers is the removal. So in this example, that relative is my third cousin, once removed.

Try it. It’s really easy! And I think it’s a lot simpler than trying to follow the chart on Lifehacker.


Are you backing up your genealogy data?

externalharddriveI have a good friend who recently lost most of her data on Dropbox. She was using Dropbox instead of her computer for storing work-related files (not genealogy related). She felt they were safe there. Until they weren’t. One day she realized that most of her files on Dropbox seemed to have vanished. She hesitated to contact them immediately, figuring it was some sort of temporary glitch or user error.

When she did contact Dropbox, they confirmed that the files and folders were gone. They offered no explanation. And they informed her that they delete files that haven’t been touched in 30 days. They offered her nothing in terms of assistance. And they did all that via email, declining to give my friend a telephone number for customer support. I was really shocked and disappointed.

Luckily, my friend uses Carbonite and her Dropbox account was included in the backup. So she was able to restore the files lost by Dropbox to her computer.

That got me thinking about how horrible I would feel if I lost my digital genealogy records (or most of my digital files, for that matter). I’ve developed a back-up scheme that makes me comfortable, but I’d be very interested to hear from you about how you ensure that your data are protected.

I store all my data on my hard drive. (I have a perhaps irrational fear of storing things only in the cloud.) My family tree info is in Reunion. My scanned files are in my Genealogy folder, filed by surname. I do have an Ancestry.com tree, but it’s a supplement to what I have on my hard drive.

I back up my hard drive every 15 minutes with CrashPlan Pro. When my MacBook is at my desk at home, I have it plugged into an external hard drive. I use Time Machine to back up hourly as well.

There are some things in my genealogy life that aren’t fully backed up. Some of my items on Evernote, for example, aren’t stored on my hard drive. This blog is backed up to Dropbox daily. (I felt better about that before my friend’s Dropbox experience.)

I feel secure with this system, but I fear it’s a false sense of security. I’d love to hear from you. How do you back up your genealogy data?

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