Earlier in this blog I wrote that I was torn between wanting to verify facts in my family history but also wanting to explore the stories behind the facts. I also mentioned that I was overwhelmed by all the unverified data that I’d collected and didn’t know how to proceed.
Well, I’ve developed a plan and I realized I should share it here. I have over a hundred pages of five-generation ancestral charts filled out by hand back when I was just writing stuff down willy nilly without regard for accuracy. They provide some nice clues, but I’m treating as clues and nothing more.
I’ve installed Reunion on my Mac and, starting with my parents and going back in time, I’m adding family members only after I have verified their existence through vital records or censuses. (I do recognize that censuses are rife with inaccuracies, but I’m using consecutive censuses to verify.)
So far, I’ve worked back four generations, to all 16 great great grandparents, and I have a few names in the fifth generation.
This feels so good.
My tree is growing and I’m confident in its accuracy. I know that every piece of information in Reunion has a source behind it.
I know that so far I’ve had it pretty easy. The ancestors I’ve been researching were all born in the U.S. and the earliest was born in 1845. So there are a lot of easily found records to look at. I know it will get harder as I go back in time and when I start researching immigrant ancestors.
The other thing I’m doing is entering every scrap of data, with sources, into the Reunion software. So far I have 83 sources in my source list. Sometimes the data entry can feel tedious, but I know I can’t rely on my memory for anything (nor should I). For example, I’m entering Residence for every year I find an ancestor on a census. That completeness is very helpful when I go back to look at individuals. At a glance, I can see how long they lived in a given location.
Having this plan has made me feel much less overwhelmed by doing family history research. It makes it very easy when I sit down to do some research to get right to work.