My 2015 genealogy goals

In my last blog post I wrote that I don’t usually create genealogy goals and that this year would be different. I’m starting to really question my memory, because a search on my blog revealed the genealogy goals I set for 2013 and 2014. So I guess I what I really mean is that I need to set genealogy goals and keep them top of mind.

A year ago I created a quarterly research scheme for 2014 that actually worked quite well for me. (I described and evaluated it in this post.) I decided that I would divide the year into quarters and focus on one line of my family (that is, the ancestors of one grandparent) per quarter. At that time I outlined all the things that I would endeavor to do in that quarter. The list was lengthy and I think I knew at the time I was writing it that I’d never get it all done.

I’ve learned that when I create unrealistic goals I tend to ignore them. So I decided that for 2015 I need to structure my genealogy goals in such a way that I set myself up for success.

I created a list not dissimilar to last year’s, but instead of expecting myself to do everything on the list, I am striving to do four of the eight things on the list for each family line.  I’m sticking with the quarterly plan, but I’ll be jumping for joy if I accomplish four of the things per quarter. And I imagine the four things I do accomplish will vary by the family line.

Most of the items on my list are things within my control, which I think is important because so much of genealogy research feels outside my control. For example, one of the goals is to spend an average of two hours a week researching. The goal isn’t to solve a particular mystery or achieve a milestone, which I may or may not be able to do, but rather to put in the effort. (I did include one milestone among the goals, because it will feel so good to achieve it.)

The menu of eight items vary in level of effort, so if I have a quarter where I’m not able to spend as much time as I’d like researching, I can probably still get a few Xs. (For example, I’m sure I can find photos on my hard drive and add them to Reunion or add ten pins to my genealogy map.)

So here’s the little table I made in Pages on my Mac.


I’m sure there’s plenty of room for improvement here, but I’m feeling good that these goals are achievable and something that I can keep top of mind. I’m going to print out the table and pin it to my bulletin board so I know I won’t forget them this year!

What does success look like in 2015?

Setting genealogy goalsI’m an unabashed goal-oriented person. I don’t always achieve all my goals, but I love having something to strive for.

I’m realizing, though, that I don’t really have goals for my genealogy research. I think if I had them, I’d feel better about my progress. So before the end of this year, I intend to put together a short list of genealogy goals for 2015. I think it will help motivate me to do research when I don’t feel like I have time. And it should also keep me focused in my research.

What will my genealogy goals look like? I don’t know just yet. But the things I’m going to consider are:

  • Building my family tree up (into new generations) versus building it out (adding more collateral lines)
  • Visiting more cemeteries and/or research libraries
  • Attending conferences
  • Reaching out to cousins
  • Getting and keeping everything organized (that’s a work in progress, of course!)

While achieving goals is important to me, I believe in rewarding myself for progress, rather than results. Along those lines, I think would also be wise for me to set a goal for the amount of effort I put in. So I think I’ll include something like, “Spend at least 30 minutes twice a week” on genealogy. That could be doing research or organizing my research. Thirty minutes twice a week doesn’t sound like much, but it amounts to 52 hours over the course of a year, and 52 hours is significant!

On or before January 2, I’ll post my short list of goals here. What about you? Do you set annual goals for your genealogy research? If not, do you think you might start?


My research trip preparation

Preparing for a genealogy research tripI leave today for my research trip to the Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, Missouri. It’s about 3.5 hours from my home in St. Louis. I am really excited!

When I initially decided to take this trip, I felt a little anxious. I didn’t know what I would research and I knew that without a plan, I’d feel overwhelmed and incompetent the minute I walked in the door. Then I’d berate myself for not making the best use of my research time. And I’d wonder whether I could have done more.

So you know what I did to counteract that? I actually created a plan! I spent a good amount of time this weekend going through the holdings of the library online and checking my family tree to see what documents I needed. It was loads of fun to discover what I need when I have the potential to get the actual information.

Is started with a simple Pages document (Pages is the Mac’s version of Word) where I just kept a running list of what I might find and where. Then yesterday I created a Numbers document (you guessed it, Numbers is the Mac equivalent of Excel), sorted by family branch, of the info I need and where I might find it.

Because of other obligations today, I won’t get to Independence until late afternoon. The library is open until 9. My plan is to check into my hotel, grab something to eat, then go to the library to get the lay of the land and plan my day tomorrow. I’ll have a full day there tomorrow and will be able to go back to research in the morning and early afternoon on Wednesday.

I’m meeting my friend and fellow researcher, Lori Krause, whom I met at RootsTech (thanks to this blog) for some research and dinner tomorrow. Life is good!

Next week, I’ll post the list of items I brought and let you know whether I used them and what items I wished I’d brought.

My genealogy time-management plan

Ticking clockWhen it comes to my family history research, time management is a big challenge for me. I want to hunker in and start researching my family. But I also want to learn more techniques for doing the research. And I want to stay on top of the resources that are available out there. And I want to read other genealogy blogs, because they’re so interesting.

But there are only so many hours in a day.

Getting overwhelmed has always been a challenge for me in my research. I think it has to do with the abundance of possibilities this avocation offers. There’s so much to learn about my family and so many ways to go about learning it.

I do well with structure and I know that, for me, structure helps me deal with that overwhelmed feeling I get in the face of too many choices. (This is a theme in my life.)

So in thinking about how I might structure my genealogy research time to avoid overwhelm and actually get stuff done, this is what I’m thinking:

  • I’d like to allot a certain number of hours a week to doing family history research.
  • I’d like to divide those house among a variety of pursuits, assigning a percentage to each.

So how do I go about deciding how many hours and what percentages? It’s pretty much a crap shoot. I know from experience there’s no point in worrying about getting it right at the outset. I need to just pick a starting point and adjust as experience dictates. So here’s the goal I’m going to set for myself, for the remainder of March and the month of April (keeping in mind I’m away for a week in April where no family history work will be done).

  • I’m going to strive to work 10 hours a week on family-history-research-related activities.

I’ll try to divide those ten hours this way:

  • 50 percent on actual research about my family (5 hours)
  • 20 percent going through downloaded learning resources (2 hours)
  • 20 percent reading genealogy blogs (2 hours)
  • 10 percent organizing my family history research (1 hour)

My research is pretty well organized and I don’t have a big backlog, so an hour a week should do it. I could see needing to spend more than an hour a week organizing.

This is just a starting point. I could be way off on my percentages. I think I’ll keep a time sheet of some sort so I can see how I’m actually using family history research time and how the percentages actually shake out.

I’ll report back how it works out and whether this structure has helped.

How about you? How do you balance the research with the learning and the organizing?

Photo by R.L. Hyde via Flickr