Who needs a staycation?

nostaycationWeek before last, I blogged at my excitement over the prospect taking this week off to devote to genealogy research. You know what they say about the best laid plans.

I ended up having to schedule clients Thursday and Friday and yesterday was occupied with details surrounding moving back into our newly renovated kitchen (hooray!). So my staycation shrunk to two days.

My first thought was to abandon the idea and try to find another week to take off. But then I realized that (a) that week would probably never come and (b) I don’t need huge blocks of time to accomplish research. As I documented during my first 30 x 30 challenge, I can get a whole lot done by doing just a little every day.

I have other business- and kitchen-related things I need to do today and tomorrow, so I’m going to commit to grabbing at least two hours each day to do research. That’s four hours more than I did last week.

I have the week-long NGS research trip to the Allen County Public Library to look forward to in August. So I know I’ll get that intensive research time I crave. But in the meantime, I’m going to try to devote at least four hours a week during the eight weeks leading up the trip–taking time where I can find it–to get some research done.

This is an important reminder that, as appealing as a staycation is,  I don’t need a big chunk of time to get work done!

My genealogy staycation!

staycationThis morning I looked at my calendar and realized that, at this moment in time, I have a free week in a couple of weeks. That is, I have no organizing appointments scheduled for the week of June 20 (well, a tentative one on Friday the 24th). Thankfully, I’ve been in business long enough to see that as the blessing it is, rather than freaking out that my business is failing (which it certainly isn’t).

A few years, I wrote a post here about my dream genealogy staycation. I fantasized about what I’d do if I had a week to devote to genealogy research. When I looked at that gloriously empty week on my calendar this morning, I realized that I could make that dream a reality! So I’m going to block out the week and start making plans about how I’ll spend it. Lucky for me, that blog post is a great starting point.

I’m getting another amazing opportunity when I go on the NGS research trip to the Allen County Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, in August. I think my staycation will be a great precursor to that. The work I do this month should help make that trip even more productive.

How about you? Have you ever taken a chunk of time off to work on your genealogy? Did it meet your expectations? And do you have any suggestions for me?

Identifying military ancestors

identifying military ancestorsWhenever I read about a records collection for a certain conflict (which seems to happen around military-related holidays, like Veteran’s Day or anniversaries of conflicts) I get excited about researching my ancestors in those collections, which can be such a treasure trove of information. But in the past sometimes I would have difficulty remembering which ancestor might have fought in which war and I’d become overwhelmed and abandon the effort.

So I created a document that shows me the prospective ancestors for each conflict, based on the dates they were born. At the time, I used a table from Family Tree Magazine but when I went looking for it to share in this post, I couldn’t find it. However, I did find an even-better table called Ages of Servicemen in Wars that lists 20 military conflicts, the years they were fought, the typical birth dates for soldiers and the  typical ages of soldiers. Thank you, FamilySearch!

Armed with that information, I created a simple spreadsheet (pictured, in part, above) with the following column headers:

  • Conflict
  • Likely Birth Year of Soldiers
  • Prospective Ancestor
  • Confirmed Ancestor

For each conflict, I entered the names of the ancestors who were born during the birth-year window listed in column 2. After I ascertained that one had indeed fought in that war, I entered an X in the Confirmed Ancestor column. What I should have done and will from here forward, is place a dash or an N in the Confirmed Ancestor column to indicate that I’d ruled that ancestor out.

This is a simple way to see at a glance who I might research when I’m looking at military collections at the National Archives, Fold3 or elsewhere. It’s easy to create and well worth the time spent.

Letting go of should

shouldgraphicIt’s natural to ask about questions about organizing (your genealogy or anything else) that start with the word “should.” Should I organize my documents this way or that way? Should I store things here or there? Should I focus on this or that?

When I try to answer a question that starts with should, the answer is almost always, “It depends.” Because it’s all about what will work for you.

I encourage my clients (and anyone else who w’ill listen to me) to let go of the word should. And to also let go of asking questions that start with, “What’s the right way to…” or What’s the best way to….”

Because here’s the thing: I can’t tell you what you should do. Only you know what’s right for you. It can be much more beneficial to think in terms of what you’d like to do, or what you think will work best for you, rather than what you should do. Especially when it comes to organizing your genealogy research, the thing you should do (in my opinion) is the thing that works well for you and that you can keep up.

For example:

  • Maybe you’ve always heard that you should store your paper documents in binders, but you have trouble keeping up with that. Let go of that should and consider using file folders or scanning your documents.
  • Maybe you think you should print every document for the sake of posterity but you’re overrun with unfiled paper. You can let go of that should, particularly if your electronic documents are already organized.
  • Conversely, maybe you’ve heard you should scan every bit of paper and store files electronically, but you’re overwhelmed by the prospect. Bye bye, should. You can let your paper files be sufficient. Or just start storing new files electronically and leaving your papers unscanned.
  • Maybe you’re told you should keep a research log, but you just can’t get yourself to do it. A research log can be hugely beneficial. But don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have one just because you think you should.

In other words, set yourself up for success and do what works for you. Decide what your priorities are (accessibility for you, accessibility for others, ease of use, etc.) and focus your organizing systems on those priorities. Don’t do something just because someone told you you should if it doesn’t seem like it will work for you.

All that said, there are some genealogy shoulds that I think you should pay attention to:

  • You should cite your sources so you can find them again and know where your facts came from (but you don’t have to cite them perfectly if that’s getting in the way of citing them at all).
  • You should back up your electronic data in case of a crash (I use an external hard drive an automated cloud storage).

Genealogy is supposed to be fun. Don’t let the shoulds drag you down. Make your own choices and own them. And keep yourself open to new ways of doing things. (See what I did there? I told you all sorts of things I think you should do, without using that word. Take what works for you and let go of the rest.)