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

 

Setting my genealogy goals

One of my favorite things about December is goal setting. I take stock of the year and how did on the goals I set the prior December. And then I create new goals for the coming year. I do this for my organizing business every year, but this will be the first year I’ve set specific goals for my family history research.

I think having goals will help me get past the overwhelmed feeling I sometimes get when I think about my family history research. I think I’ll also create a running wish list, a place to capture research subjects or activities I’d like to do at some point. That will help with the “what should I work on today?” question that comes up from time to time.

I’m going to spend some time honing my genealogy goals over the course of the month, so these might change. But right now, the goals that occur to me are:

  • Take a research trip
  • Meet some of my new-found cousins
  • Attend at least one genealogy-related conference
  • Learn about and take advantage of local research opportunities
  • Do family history research at least twice a week
  • Post to this blog twice a week
  • Increase the readership of this blog

I’m noticing that none of these goals are related to actual research results or the research that I want to accomplish. And that’s okay with me. I’m a big believer in doing things a little at a time and rewarding effort, rather than results. I don’t know where my research is going to take me and I’m really enjoying the journey. So my goal for next year is continue with the research and enjoy the fruits of my labor.