Creating a genealogy to-do list

gentodolistsampleI know I have two big impediments when it comes to making progress with my genealogy research. One is that I often don’t know where to start in a particular session. The other is that I think I need a huge block of time and that huge block rarely comes.

But I know better. I am a big believer in grabbing snippets of time to complete discrete tasks. For me, this is true in life and in genealogy research. But my reluctance to start a short session still rears its head.

Yesterday, as I was pondering this situation, I came up with a strategy that might be helpful. I created a form for myself where I can separate tasks by the amount of time I think they’ll take. That way, when I find myself with 30 minutes to spend on family history research, I can scan the “30 minutes” section (or the “15 minutes or less” section) and hop right into a task. The form I created has seven sections: 15 minutes (or less), 30 minutes, one hour, two hours, half day, full day, and weekend.

Since I’m trying to focus on one branch of my family per quarter, I decided to make a separate list for each branch. That way, if I come across some leads for families I’m not working on this quarter, I can put them on the appropriate list, and when that quarter rolls around I’ll already have a task list to get me started.

If I manage to use this form consistently, it should serve a few purposes:

  • I’ll be able to jump right into my research without feeling overwhelmed
  • My sessions should be more focused and productive
  • I’ll research more frequently, because I won’t be waiting for large blocks of time to emerge
  • If I hit a dead end, I can go right back to my list to refocus

I can’t wait to give this a try. I’ve started with a short list for a couple of family branches. I’m going to figure out a way to include routine tasks on the list (like updating my progress tracker and making sure that all paper documents are also properly stored on my hard drive) so that they get done relatively painlessly. I think this will definitely be a work in progress.

In the next week or two, I’ll create a template for you to use in your research and include it in the Printables section of this site. I’m going to wait a little while to do so, so that I can refine it a bit, based on my use. (An excerpt of my one-day-old version of the form is what’s pictured with this post.) I’m thinking that I may drop the final two sections, since I want to include smaller tasks, not large projects, on the list. But I’ll use it awhile before deciding.

I’m curious: Do you find it hard to figure out where to start when you have time to do genealogy research? Or is that something peculiar to me?

Find genealogy success with Genealogy Intensive from Thomas MacEntee

One of the things I struggle with in my genealogy research is finding the time to do the research, staying focused, and avoiding overwhelm. Internet communities and research trips can provide camaraderie and support but, for the most part, genealogy research is a pretty solitary endeavor.

That’s why I was really excited to receive an email yesterday from Thomas MacEntee of Hack Genealogy and GeneaBloggers announcing his new Genealogy Intensive™ online workshops. (Maybe you received it too.)

The six-week workshop is limited to 13 participants, all focused on a common goal. (Each individual workshop has a theme.) The participants provide support, feedback and accountability to one another and are led by an expert coach. There are assignments and weekly online meetings. The first Genealogy Intensive, called The Write Stuff will be led by Lisa Alzo and is for people who are interested in building their their family history writing skills. It starts October 13. The price for the Genealogy Intensive is just $129 (right now it’s discounted to $99), which seems like a huge bargain to me.

I know from experience that this type of camaraderie, accountability, guidance and focus can reap huge benefits. I’ve taken similar courses in different contexts. In fact, I started this blog as a result of a similar workshop in 2012 called Why Not Now? that spurred me to figure out the technology side of setting up the blog, something I’d been wanting to do for ages. After the two-week-long Why Not Now? workshop in April 2012, the blog was well on its way. It went live in June 2012 and has been going strong ever since.

The other reason I’m so excited by Genealogy Intensive concept is that I’m a big fan of Tom MacEntee. I listened to him raptly for four hours as he lectured at the Genealogy Society of Southern Illinois’ one-day conference  in August and I love his website GeneaBloggers. I’m very grateful for the support he provides to genealogy blogger and for his generosity in sharing his knowledge about genealogy.

If you’re interested in putting your family history into writing and feel you could use some instruction and encouragement, I urge you to sign up! I won’t be signing up for this particular intensive (I’m a professional writer), but I eagerly await the schedule of 2015 Intensives that Tom tells me will be coming out in the next few weeks.

Have you registered for RootsTech?

RootsTech 2015 registration is openAbout ten days ago, I registered for RootsTech 2015, which will be held February 11 to 15 in Salt Lake City. I attended last year and really enjoyed it. I jumped at the chance to register again for only $139, the early registration fee. (I’m accustomed to organizers’ conferences that cost about $500 to register.)

When they announced last year that RootsTech 2015 would be held in conjunction with the Federation of Genealogical Societies’ (FGS) annual conference, my first thought was, 10,000 people isn’t enough? Here’s the thing: RootsTech 2014 was so well organized (and, believe me, I don’t say that lightly) that I have no worries that combining the conference with FGS will have a negative impact on the conference experience. In fact, I’m pretty sure it will have a positive impact.

The two conferences are being held concurrently. There will be shared general sessions and a shared Expo. Those who register for one conference will have the option of going to the other conference’s breakout sessions (that option is available for a small additional registration fee). I didn’t know whether I would want to attend any FGS sessions, but for an additional $39, I figured it was worth it to keep that option open.

So I have my plane ticket, my hotel reservation, and my conference registration. It’s on my calendar and I am really looking forward to it.

Are you going? If so, please let me know! Last year, I met up with OYFH reader Lori Krause and we’ve had a great time staying in touch ever since! (Hope you’re going again, Lori!)

Planning a cemetery research trip

Planning my tour of southern cemeteriesI’m going to an organizers’ conference in Nashville next month and I’ve decided to drive there so I can add on some time for some cemetery research. I’m excited to step away from my desk a bit more!

The branch of my family tree I’m focusing on this quarter is Rasco, my paternal grandmother’s family. They lived in Alabama until about 100 years ago when my great grandparents moved their family to Texas and then to Washington state. My research indicates that some are buried in the Rasco Cemetery in Dallas County, Alabama. Others are buried at the Mount Pisgah Cemetery in Cullman County, Alabama.

In addition, my Adams line lived in Kentucky before moving to the Pacific Northwest. So I plan to visit two cemeteries in McLean County, Kentucky, as part of this trip. At least one of the gravestones, whose picture I saw on Find A Grave, is very hard to read. I’m anxious to work the aluminum foil magic on any particularly worn stones and see whether the data on the stone will become legible.

When I think about planning for this trip, I know I want to capitalize on the opportunity. That means that I need to know who I’m looking for. I also need to look for folks who might be their kin, even if I  don’t have good enough sources to have added them to my Reunion software. That way I can photograph gravestones for potential future use. I obviously need to get my directions together–the fact that Find A Grave often gives GPS coordinates (longitude and latitude) for cemeteries is tremendous! Even though my time is somewhat limited prior to the trip, I do hope to devote some time to researching these lines so that I can bring as much knowledge to the table as possible. I also want to do a little research on best practices in cemeteries.

I wish I could incorporate some courthouse research on this trip, but I simply don’t have time before or after the conference. So, for now, I’ll settle on cemetery research and plan a future trip for courthouse documents. I’m excited!

If you’ve done cemetery research, do you have any tips for me?