When life gets in the way of research

Finding time for genealogy researchI had a wonderful research trip last month and I really enjoyed being immersed in my genealogy research. But I don’t think I’ve done any family history research since then! That is a crying shame.

It’s not a bad problem to have:  I’m so busy with paying work (helping clients get organized) that I’m having trouble finding time to do genealogy research. But it’s also not acceptable. If I want to do this research (and I do), I need to make it a priority.

I know I’ve felt this way at times before, so I perused the articles from this blog tagged time management. And I was inspired. I noticed a shift in how things are going for me. My lack of research these days is truly due to lack of time, not lack of direction or feelings of overwhelm as it used to be. So that’s progress. (The end result–no research getting done– is the same, unfortunately.) My quarterly plan really gives me direction, which is so beneficial to how I feel about doing research.

But as I wrote in this article, it really is about priority management, not time management. I’m fortunate in that I have control over my schedule, both work and personal, since I don’t have kids and my husband makes few demands on my time. So I could, in theory anyway, reserve a day of the week for genealogy research. It might mean delaying (or possibly even losing) billable hours. Or it might mean prioritizing my desires over my clients’ (which feels really weird).

The bottom line is this (at least right now): If I don’t make doing my family history research a priority, time to do it is not going to materialize. I need to schedule it, not wait for free blocks of time. And, if necessary, I need to sneak it into available pockets of time.

In March 2013, I created a genealogy time-management plan. Looking back, it might have been overly ambitious and I admit it fell by the wayside. So now, I think if I simply block off  four hours a week where I focus on actual family history research (not writing this blog, not reading other people’s blogs), I will make progress. That sounds completely doable.

Maybe in June I’ll be able to schedule a little genealogy staycation of a few days’ duration. That sounds really wonderful.

How about you? How do you find the time to do your family history research?

Photo by nicksarebi via Flickr.

Exploring genetic genealogy

Exploring genetic genealogyWhen I was at the RootsTech conference in February, I was inspired to check out getting a DNA test to help me in my genealogy research. I hadn’t been tempted before, primarily because genetics always made my eyes cross when I studied it in biology class. But I grew to understand at RootsTech (primarily from the great keynote from Dr. Spencer Wells) that the more people who get genetic testing and open their results to others, the more valuable it becomes. It’s part of that genealogical generosity I blogged about after the conference.

Today I was reading a primer on DNA testing for ancestry on the terrific blog Family History Daily. It was really informative, but I have to admit I’m getting a little paralyzed by the options. I did a little Google search and found myself wishing I could find an article in which someone would just tell me what test to take. I did find this terrific roundup, Top Genetic Genealogy Tools by Blaine Bettinger on Family Tree Magazine’s blog, and was struck by the last sentence, “Having a clear purpose in mind–such as finding out where your maternal roots lie or whether you’re related to someone else with your surname–is essential to choosing the right genetic genealogy test.” That makes so much sense. Keeping your goal in mind is always helpful in making choices.

Now I realize I don’t really know my goal. I’m motivated by curiosity and the desire to be helpful but that’s not much of a goal to guide my choice of which test to take.

So I thought I’d turn to the helpful readers of this blog. Have you had a DNA test to help your genealogy? If so, what was your goal? And what service did you use? Were you satisfied with the test results? Would you recommend that testing service?

I appreciate any advice or experiences you’d like to share!

Photo by Alf Melin via Flickr

Where are your family treasures?

Where are your family treasures?This week, I was working with a wonderful organizing client. As she gave me a tour of the storage spaces in her home, she said, “This is my most treasured possession!” And she bent down and pulled a plastic bin out from under the bed. Inside was her father’s World War II photo album, along with a few other war artifacts. The photo album had small black-and-white photos mounted onto black paper with meticulous white handwritten captions. The pages were deteriorating and some of the photos had fallen out of their mounting.

I oohed and ahhhed because it was an amazing heirloom. But I challenged her a little by saying, “Why is your most treasured possession stored under the bed in a non-archival plastic bin?” One day (soon, I hope), we will work together to get this item and some other heirlooms into safer storage.

That very same day, my mother’s cousin asked me for a photo of my grandfather for the genealogy poster he is putting together. So I rifled through the box of family photos that my mother gave me, trying to locate a good picture for him. As I did that, I realized that these photos are among my most treasured possessions, yet I am not treating them with the respect they deserve. They’re not archivally stored, nor are they organized.

When I acquired this box in December, I blogged about my plan to deal with them. But I’ve done nothing. I keep waiting for a free block of time.  should know by now that the free time is never going to materialize on its own. I have to set aside time for this project. Luckily for me, this branch of the family is having a reunion in a couple of months, so I can get some help identifying the people in these photos!

How about you? Do you have treasured inherited items that are languishing in unsafe conditions? If you need information on how to handle and store them, check out Sally Jacobs of The Practical Archivist and Denise Levenick of The Family Curator. Don’t wait for something bad to happen. Carve out some time to deal with them now.

The importance of a clear workspace

A clear desk makes you more productiveIs your genealogy work surface clear? If not, do you have to clear if off before you start researching? I think a messy desk can make it hard to do your best work.

I’m a big believer in clearing off my (physical) desk top every night. That way I can hit the ground running in the morning. I do my genealogy work at same desk where I blog and run my organizing business. If I didn’t keep a clear desktop, I think I’d find next to impossible to even contemplate doing genealogy work.

This point was brought home emphatically this morning. I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but as of last night I had not finished my family’s taxes. I started them a month or two ago, but when it became apparent that I was going to have to pay additional taxes, I kept procrastinating on finishing them. I thought I’d finished them Sunday night and was just planning to print out the return and write checks yesterday (April 14). But when I went through the Review process on Turbo Tax, errors came up that had me pulling out my hair. After a few hours of trying to deal with it through online resources and a call to a tax-lawyer friend, I decided to throw in the towel and file for an extension. About then, my husband let me know that dinner was ready, so I just left my desk to go eat. And I didn’t come back that night.

So this morning, I was greeted by a messy desk top. And I had to fill out the forms to file for extensions for federal, state and local taxes and figure out how much to pay with each extension request. I also had figure out what to pay in estimated taxes. And I had to write the checks. This kind of thing stresses me out under the best of circumstances. But with my messy desk (pictured above), I could feel my blood pressure rising.

I have to leave to see a client in 90 minutes, but I’m happy to say that despite the messy desk, I got the tax forms filled out and checks written. (I’ll come back to my Turbo Tax problems in a couple of days and hope to get my return filed soon.) I also wrote my monthly newsletter and two blog posts this morning. But I could have done all that with less stress if I hadn’t been surrounded by paper. And I felt so busy I didn’t take the time to clear it.

If your workspace is typically cluttered, I encourage you to take a little time to clean it off and then establish a habit of clearing it nightly. It’s one of three habits that really help keep me at the top of my game. It might help you get more genealogy research done!