Going beyond online resources

Going beyond online resources

The National Personnel Records Center

Like many beginning genealogy researchers, my first inclination is to go online to look for a fact or find a resource. If I don’t find what I’m looking for, more often than not I move on to the next thing to research online. But as I’m listening to veteran genealogists share their knowledge and expertise at the National Genealogical Society’s annual conference, I’m learning that online resources are, of course, just the tip of the iceberg.

The first break-out session I attended was “But I’ve Looked Everywhere,” presented by Barbara Vines Little, CG, FNGS, FVGS. It was a tremendous session and a great way for me to kick off the conference. She went over an amazing array of resources where you might find the information you’re looking for. And guess what? Many of those resources aren’t easily available online.

After two days (so far) of the conference, I’ve come to realize that I need (and want) to get out of the house and explore the amazing repositories of information available in my own community. I’m fortunate to live where there are not one, but two, large public library headquarters (St. Louis City and County), both of which have genealogy departments. There is also the Missouri History Museum Library as well as the National Personnel Records Center of the  National Archives at St. Louis (the largest federal archive outside of Washington, D.C.). Also, the Missouri State Archives is just a couple of hours away in Jefferson City. They provide a great deal of information online through Missouri Digital Heritage, but I learned at the conference that there is much more information available that is not digitized. There is much for me to discover by researching in person.

One thing I’ve learned when I have gone out of town to research at various libraries is that it’s easy for me to get overwhelmed and not take full advantage of what the repository has to offer. That’s because, I think, I’ve gone in thinking that I wanted to cast a wide net and learn as much as possible. Now I’m thinking I’m better off with a single focus, particularly if I’m using these local libraries where I can return again and again without effort.

In her talk, Barbara Vines Little said something that keeps echoing in my brain:

“You have to know what the question is before you can look for the answer.”

 –Barbara Vines Little

I need to go into to these libraries and archives with a very specific question in mind. That will help me stay focused and help me use my time well. I’m excited to figure out those specific questions and get started!

Finding time to do your research

Ticking clockI have two blogs, one at my organizing business’s website, Peace of Mind Organizing, and this one. I try to blog twice a week at each. The focuses are separate (though the common theme is organizing) but occasionally a post written for one can transfer right over to the other.

That’s the case today. When perusing my business blog, I realized that a post called Finding time to feed your soul would be great on this blog. So here it is.

I love doing genealogy research. It’s a fairly big part of my life—I blog twice weekly (most weeks) at my genealogy blog, Organize Your Family History, so I actually think about my family research quite a lot.

But I don’t actually research as often as I’d like. And that’s a shame, because researching my family history feeds my soul.

We’re all busy with the daily activities of life. Throw kids, aging parents, demanding work, needy spouses or sick pets into the mix and sometimes it feels like we don’t have any time to do those things that really nourish us.

I believe that doing those things is really important for self care. So how can we find the time?

Time management is all about managing priorities. If you put everyone’s needs before your own, all you’ll be doing is putting out fires. And that’s not good for you. So I think it’s important to figure out little pockets of time that you can set aside as “me time.” During that special time, you can do that thing that keeps you going and that feeds your soul.

How can you find some pockets of time when you’re already so busy?

  • Get up a half hour early to feed your soul
  • Drop an activity that you’re doing because you think you should, not because you want to
  • If you’re a TV watcher, have a no-TV day each week and put that time toward your desired activity
  • Find people who also do what you want to do (like a knitting group) and agree to do that activity together.
  • Block off time on your calendar for your soul-feeding activity
  • Explain to your family your need to have to time of your own and arrange for a redistribution of chores

The list could go on. Perhaps you just need to be a little creative.

If you’re saying to yourself, I can’t take time out for myself while my house is messy…that’ll have to wait until I get organized then please stop. It breaks my heart when people stop their messy homes from allowing them to live. Sure, work on your home, bit by bit (or hire someone to help you), but reward your efforts with some soul-nourishing activity.

Our lives our important and they should be as happy and fulfilling as possible. I’m a firm believer that we can take control of our time and do those things that bring fulfillment.

Can you make some time for yourself this weekend?

Photo by R.L. Hyde via Flickr

Don’t forget your conference notes!

arcnotebookcameraYesterday I was flying home from an organizers’ conference and decided to take a few minutes to read through the notes contained in the notebook I take to meetings. (In case you’re an office-supply junkie like me, I’ll tell you that I use the Arc disc notebook from Staples–that’s it in the picture–which has repositionable pages that allow me to easily organize my notes in sections.)

As I read through the genealogy section, I became reacquainted with the notes I took from the wonderful sessions I attended at RootsTech 2015. Honestly, some of those sessions had completely slipped my mind as I re-entered real life after the conference. So I put a note on my task list to try out some of the resources in my next genealogy research session. (I’m particularly excited by trying out what I learned in the excellent session called Map My Ancestors, presented by A.C. Ivory.)

I see now that there is a bullet item missing from the list I created when I wrote the blog post Digging out after a conference. I need to add, Review session notes to the list of things I do at home after a conference. It doesn’t matter whether I took regular handwritten notes, used my Livescribe pen, or typed them directly into my iPad or laptop. If I don’t review the notes I’m going to miss out on some of what I learned, because I certainly can’t keep all of it in my head.

My crazy travel schedule this month has precluded my doing any genealogy research so far in April. But I intend to do some on Sunday. And the first place I’m going to look when I start my session is in my conference notebook. I can’t wait!

Starting the oral history conversation

family_history_daily_main_logoLast month, I read this great interview with D. Joshua Taylor, president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, Director of Family History at findmypast.com and co-host of Genealogy Roadshow. The interview was written by Creastleaf for Family History Daily.

I was especially inspired by this question and answer:

Crestleaf: To you, what are the top three most important questions people should ask when conducting oral history interviews with their family members?

JT: First, who was the oldest relative you knew; make that leap from one generation to another while you can. Second, ask them about their childhood – these are the clues and tidbits that we cannot readily find in existing records. Finally, ask them about a memory of yourself – too often we fail to document our own stories.

I think those questions are brilliant! They’re informal, will glean great information, and, I think, spark more conversation.

I just spent some time with my elderly parents on a whirlwind visit to Walla Walla, Washington, with my niece and nephew, who live in Australia. I had hoped to try out those questions but ended up having precious little time for such conversations. When I go back in a couple of months for a more leisurely visit, I’ll be sure and ask the questions. I hope to be able to ask them of my aunt (my father’s sister) as well.

And when I do, I’ll report here. My thanks to Crestleaf, Family History Daily, and, of course, Joshua Taylor for such great information!