End-of-the-quarter evaluation

brownfanchartAt the beginning of the year, I put together a research scheme in which I would focus on researching (and organizing the research) one branch of my family each quarter. The first quarter ended yesterday, so I thought it might be a good idea to report how it went.

Overall, I’m pleased. The first quarter of 2014 was devoted to my father’s father’s side of the family, the Adamses. Knowing which family I was researching kept me focused, which was terrific. The downside is that I certainly didn’t finish researching that family (like I ever would), nor did I finish organizing the Adams research that I had uncovered in the past. But that’s okay, because I can pick it up again in January 2015. And, of course, I can work on it whenever I want–my plan isn’t a law, after all.

So now that it’s the second quarter, I turn my attention to the Browns, my mother’s father’s side of the family. That’s timely for a couple of reasons. They’re a midwestern family for a number of generations back and I am paying a visit to the Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, Missouri, next week (!). Also, there is a Brown Family Reunion in June, so I’ll be extra motivated to uncover and organize my research so I can share it with cousins.

I’m kind of excited to switch the focus of my research. I’d gotten the easy stuff out of the way with the Adams family and of course when it gets more difficult, it requires more patience. So switching gears is quite welcome.

I think it’s a little early to proclaim my quarterly research scheme a success, but at this point I can certainly imagine doing it again next year!

Don’t let the backlog get you down

Metadata can make digital files more searchable

Metadata on my GGGF’s death certificate

Lately I’ve been thinking about the backlog of electronic files that I should tag with metadata and that I should rename for consistency and ease of access. (I wrote about that in this post, It’s all about access.) When I think about doing all that, I get overwhelmed. And then I don’t want to do any of it.

I realized though, that I don’t have to wait until the backlog has been completed to start establishing new patterns with new files that I save. It’s just like I tell my clients who have an overabundance of accumulated mail in their homes: They don’t have to go through all the old mail before figuring out how to handle the new mail.

So starting today, I’m creating a simple file naming system for individual files. (I think it’s going to be Year-Document Type-First Name-Last Name). And all new files will be named accordingly.  I’ll also work on creating the habit of adding metadata immediately after saving a file. So my new files will be in good shape and I won’t be adding to the backlog. At the same time, little by little, I can work through my backlog of files and change file names and add metadata tags. I can do it systematically. And I can also just edit the file name and add metadata every time I find myself accessing a file.

One of my personal mantras is “Let it be easy.” This feels like an easy approach to a project that’s been causing me a little stress.

Family Search seeking volunteer indexers

Family Search needs indexersWhen I was at Roots Tech, I was struck by the generosity of genealogists.  One of the things I was inspired to do while there was to sign up as an indexer for FamilySearch.org. The patient staffer at their booth took me through the sign up process and I was on my way.

Indexes make records searchable. The reason that you’re able to do an online search on a name at Family Search or Ancestry or any other genealogy website is that humans have gone through documents, like Census records, and marriage and death records and entered the information on them into a database, which often requires deciphering handwriting. When we search, we’re searching the index. At Roots Tech, Family Search was recruiting volunteers to help index obituaries, but they’re needed for all sorts of records.

Family Search’s indexing is a project of mammoth proportions. In 2014 alone, over 111,000 volunteers have completed some 33 million records, with another 14 records awaiting arbitration. (Each record is indexed by two different volunteers and when their results don’t match, a trained arbitrator decides which is right.)

That’s a whole lot of work–and Family Search relies on volunteers to do that work. You can do it from the comfort of your home and know that you’re contributing to the research of others. You may learn further your own research while you’re at it! If you sign up, you’ll be required to download some software onto your computer and once that’s done and you’ve taken a tutorial or two, you can get started.

For more information and to sign up, go the the Family Search Indexing page.

Discovering genea-fiction

inthebloodcoverBack in the 90s, when I was a dog writer, there was a series of dog lovers’ mysteries whose protagonist was a dog writer.  There is at least one set of mysteries whose main character is a professional organizer (my current profession).

So I shouldn’t be surprised that there’s a whole genre of genealogical mysteries. I guest I should be surprised that it took me this long to discover that fact!

Last night I started reading In the Blood, by Steve Robinson. Jefferson Tayte, the book’s main character, is a professional genealogist. I’m already hooked.

I think one of the things I love about doing family history research is that I’m solving mysteries. And of course I love reading mystery novels. Throw together family history research, historical fiction, and the particulars of being a genealogist and that’s a recipe for success, in my book.

In the Blood is the first in a series, which I’m sure I’ll read. When I’m through with that series there are plenty of other series from which to choose, including Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s Forensic Genealogist books, and Jimmy Fox’s Nick Herald Genealogical Mysteries.

If you read genea-fiction, I’d love to hear any recommendations for other titles. What are your favorites?