Just do something

One of the goals of this blog is to help readers not feel overwhelmed when it comes to their family history research. I got so overwhelmed some years back that I stopped doing it all together.

I advise my organizing clients who feel overwhelmed to break the project down into tiny components and just do something, anything. I also suggest setting a timer for 15 or 30 minutes. Telling yourself you can stop when the timer goes off is a great way to get past that overwhelmed feeling.

With genealogy research, I’m usually eager to do the work, but sometimes there are so many options I can’t figure out where to start. “What should I work on today?” is a question I ask myself all the time. And if I don’t quickly figure out the answer to that question, the time slot I’ve set aside from research can degenerate into indiscriminate web surfing or watching of Project Runway or something on the Internet.

I was delighted to see in the October/November 2012 of Family Tree Magazine an article called Weekend Warrior that lists seven genealogical projects that can be accomplished in a weekend. The ideas in the article, like locate your family’s grave, solve immigration mysteries, find patriot ancestors in the Daughters of the American Revolution Database, will lead me on paths I haven’t explored before. And the article provides starting points for all those quests.

Even better from a “just do something” perspective is the article’s sidebar called “Quick Fixes,” which lists five genealogy tasks you can do in thirty minutes or less. Last weekend, when I wanted to sit down for just a little while to work on my research, I pulled out this sidebar and started searching for genealogy and historical societies and libraries from my ancestors’ hometowns. That particular task had never occurred to me.

If you feel overwhelmed when you think about doing family history research, please take my advice. Just do something to get the ball rolling and feel the thrill of discovery. Write down your findings (with sources). Then come back for more later!