Competing priorities

IMG_4877 (1)I’m happy to announce a new family member, but not one who will show up on my family tree. It’s our eight-week-old standard poodle puppy, Bix, who comes with his own impressive pedigree. (We got him from Dianne Janczewski of Clifton Standard Poodles.)

What does this have to do with organizing your genealogy? Well, Bix has proven to be an adorable distraction. Thanks to the constant vigilance I keep over him (house training is an all-encompassing activity), not to mention all the playing, training and socializing we’re doing, I’m not finding much time to blog, let alone conduct family history research. Or, really, do anything else. (Somehow I do find time to post pictures of Bix on Facebook and read all the comments about his cuteness.)

I should mention that my husband works from home, so I share the puppy duties. But Barry sleeps later than I, so my precious early morning hours–the time I ordinarily devote to things like blogging–is eaten up with puppy care. Bix is in his pen chewing on a chewy as I type this morning. He’s a good boy.

Bix’s time as a puppy is precious and socialization is critical. My genealogy’s not going anywhere. So I’m going to cut myself some slack and probably just satisfy myself with thinking about genealogy, rather than doing research, for a little while. I will keep blogging, of course, but I’ll ask your forgiveness if my blog posts are shorter or less meaty than you might hope.

A tangible gift idea for genealogists

A beautiful gift for a genealogy enthusiastLast week I wrote about giving clutter-free gifts for genealogists and had a list of suggestions, mostly of non-tangible items. But today, I can’t resist telling you about one of my very favorite pieces of jewelry, one that think would make a great gift for a genealogist.

It’s the Family Tree Necklace from Lisa Leonard Designs. I blogged about mine in September 2014. The necklace, I think, is intended to be worn by moms whose children’s first names are stamped on it. The one I ordered one for myself had my grandparents’ surnames on it instead. I love the connection to my ancestors I feel when I wear it. And I think it’s a pretty piece of jewelry.

My Family Tree Necklace, purchased in 2014, was made of pewter. I see that the current offering is i sterling silver. If you have a pendant-wearing genealogy enthusiast on your list, you might consider this lovely gift. Since the item is hand-stamped, I’m not sure if it will be ready in time for Christmas. But I’m sure it would be appreciated, even if the gift arrived in January.

Hint: If you sign up for Lisa Leonard’s email newsletter, you’ll be send a 15% off coupon (or at least that was the case when I signed up!).

Do you have any genealogy documents hiding in your home?

birth certificate Dave Adams cropped2In an extreme example of the perils of letting household filing pile up, I found my grandfather’s birth record over the weekend.

Over the last few years, I’d put some effort into figuring where he was born. It was mysterious to me because the census records said he was born in Oregon, yet his residence was always Washington. My father, his son, had no recollection of any family history in Oregon. Two years ago, I blogged about it when I discovered a birth announcement in a Portland paper. At that time I said I had written away to the state archives for a copy of the birth certificate. Alas, I received a letter from the Oregon Health Authority saying that no birth record was found.

Fast forward to October 2015. I decided to stop ignoring a pile of household filing that had been sitting on top of the file cabinet for a long time. They were mostly paid bills, some records of home repairs, things like that. I file pretty consistently, I had just let this pile happen slowly over time when I had items that would take a little extra effort to file. I’d gone without touching it for some time. It had become part of the landscape.

I set my timer for ten minutes and filed. Some of the items had aged out, so I could just throw them away. It took four or five ten-minute sessions over a couple of days before I reached the bottom and, to my embarrassment (I’m a professional organizer!), I realized that the items at the bottom of the pile were set there in 2007.

Among them was a file marked with my parents’ address. In it were some documents I had snagged when cleaning out their file cabinet in 2007. I remember that epic file-cabinet clearing. My parents had saved decades’ worth of certain paid bills. There were home purchase documents and some fun records, like the hospital bill for my birth in 1962 ($261.30), which was also in the file in my filing pile. But the real gem was a certified copy of my grandfather’s birth record, issued in 1944. Apparently there was never an actual birth certificate, since this copy was based on “affidavit and documentary evidence.”

In 2007, when I saved that document from being shredded with the rest of my parents’ old records, I was interested in genealogy. But wasn’t working on it properly or seriously. I knew enough to save that birth record, but I wasn’t interested enough to file it away properly or even remember ever having seen it.

Needless to say, I was delighted, if a little chagrined, to find it. I’ve added it to the source list in my family tree software. I’ve scanned it and filed it electronically and filed the copy among my paper files. It’s now safe and sound where it belongs.

Are there any piles or files in your home that might reveal some genealogical treasures? It might be worthwhile to catch up on your filing!

Update on my 30 x 30 challenge

The 30 x 30 genealogy challengeTwenty-five days ago, I started my 30 x 30 challenge. My goal was to work on my genealogy research for at 30 minutes for 30 days. I’d been frustrated at my inability to take the time to actually do the research I found so rewarding. I felt like I needed some sort of special motivation to keep me going.

So I decided to make a short-term commitment to stay on task. I chose 30 minutes because it’s short enough to be realistic for a daily goal. And it’s also not intimidating. If I’d said I was going to do it for a year, I’d have probably quit by now.

I knew from past experience that having some sort of commitment and goal would be really motivating for me.

It’s turning out great–I think the number 30 has been magical. I’m proud to say that I’ve not missed a day yet, and in just a week, I’m confident I’ll be able to report here that I succeeded in my goal.

One thing that has made this easier is that I’ve had a project to focus on, transcribing the Civil War pension file of my 3rd great grandfather, Richard Anderson Jeffries. That meant I didn’t have to give much thought to what I was going to work on each day. That quandary is probably the single biggest barrier I have to getting started with research in any given session.

Almost all of the 25 days so far I’ve worked on R.A. Jeffries’ file. Today, I finished transcribing the entire pension file of 27 documents (woot!) and will start extracting the data next. It’s crazy how much I’m enjoying this.

The big question I’m having is whether I’ll continue with the 30-minute-a-day habit when the 30 days are up. I’m guessing I might give myself a break for a few days, but I think I’d be well advised to start another one soon. The commitment has proven to be truly powerful for me.

Edited to add: I did make it to 30 (in fact, 31) consecutive days of at least 30 minutes of genealogy research!