Focusing my efforts in 2014

My strategy for focusing my genealogy efforts in 2014In December every year, I take some time to set some goals. I set them for my organizing business and for my personal life. This will be the second year I’ve set goals for my genealogy research. (If you want, you can read the goals I set last year.)

In thinking about my genealogy goals for 2014, I realized that I really want to be more focused and organized in going about my research. I still struggle with not knowing what to work on in any given session. And that lack of focus makes it hard for me to actually get started.

I just hit upon an idea that I think I’ll try. I’m going to assign a family line to each quarter of the year. In this structure (which I just thought of, so it’s still evolving in my head), I won’t be limited to working on that line necessarily, but if I don’t have something else specific I want to do, I will work on the family line assigned to that quarter.

I’ve decided that the schedule will be as follows:

  • 1st quarter: Adams (my father’s father’s line)
  • 2nd quarter: Brown (my mother’s father’s line)
  • 3rd quarter: Rasco (my father’s mother’s line)
  • 4th quarter: Jeffries (my mother’s mother’s line)

At the start of each quarter, I’ll take stock of where my research lies. I’ll use my progress tracker to see what census, vital and military records I’ve already located.

During each quarter, I’ll try to do the following for each of the lines:

  • Fill in the gaps on my progress tracker
  • Make sure my surname files for that line are organized on my hard drive
  • Ensure that everything in my paper files for that line is also organized on my hard drive
  • Fill in collateral relatives on my family tree in Reunion
  • Search for sources for unsourced data provided to me by cousins
  • Go up at least one generation in verified information
  • Attach photos to my family tree in Reunion

What I like about this idea is that it should keep me more focused. And help me feel less overwhelmed. It should get me past the “what should I work on today?” question that can be such a barrier. And, perhaps best of all, it gives me some specific goals and a deadline–the end of the quarter. (I love a deadline!)

My genealogy gratitude list

The grave marker for my great great great grandparents

The grave marker for my great great great grandparents

It’s Thanksgiving here in the U.S., my favorite holiday. I love it because it’s an occasion where family and friends gather to eat good food and express thanks for all they are grateful for.

It seems appropriate therefore, for me to make a list of the genealogy-related things that I’m grateful for. (I published a more general gratitude list today on my organizing business’s blog.)

This year, I am grateful for:

  • The ease of online genealogy research. The instant gratification of finding a record via ancestry.com or Fold3 or elsewhere is such a rush.
  • The thrill of in-person research. I was delighted to find three generations of Jeffries buried in a single cemetery in western Missouri this year. I also visited my the graves of my great grandmother and great grandfather Brown (a different side of my mother’s family) on the same visit. Seeing the actual gravestones (rather than pictures of them online) was unbeatable.
  • Getting the chance to learn about preservation of family papers. I’m devouring the great information provided by Sally Jacobs, The Practical Archivist.
  • The prospect of going to my first large genealogy conference. Can’t wait for RootsTech 2014 in February!
  • The family members that I have met thanks to this blog. I am so grateful that it has connected me with my mother’s cousins. I can’t wait for the Brown Family Reunion in June!
  • This blog’s readers and commenters. I so appreciate the support this blog has received this year!

How about you? I hope you have much to be thankful for (genealogy-wise or otherwise) this year!

Asking the right questions

I’m in Walla Walla, Washington, visiting my parents. Last winter, I wrote about how excited I was to be able to interview them about family lore. Unfortunately on that visit, they weren’t remembering a whole lot of information. (Though I was able to share some information with them, which was nice.)

This trip, I’ve decided to focus on their own parents. My father’s mother’s family and my mother’s father’s family are pretty well documented. But I realize I know less about my maternal grandmother’s family and my paternal grandfather’s family. So that’s what I’m going to focus on.

This year, I’m going to use my Livescribe pen to record our interviews, which I have high hopes will come in handy down the road.

Last year I was disappointed at the results of my family-history-related conversations with my parents. This year, I’m going to try to come up with specific questions that might spark some helpful memories. Winging it wasn’t a great strategy last time.

As an aside, if your parents are not yet elderly, I encourage you to get as much information from them as you can while their memories are good. How I regret not having these conversations 10 or 20 years ago!

Genealogy = connections

From left: Me, Penny, Sue, Mary (seated)

From left: me, Penny, Sue, Mary (seated)

Thanks to my family history research (and this blog, really), I had an extraordinary day this past Friday, meeting my mother’s cousins and aunt. My mother was born in Missouri but her family moved to Spokane, Washington, in 1936 (looking for a better climate for my grandfather, who was recovering from tuberculosis). They left behind my grandfather’s parents and siblings, a close-knit family.

As a result, I didn’t grow up knowing this branch of the family and we sort of disappeared off the family radar. But that changed when my mother’s cousin, Jerry Brown, found this blog and introduced me to the Brown cousins, a wonderfully welcoming group. So when I saw there was a genealogy conference in western Missouri, I registered and arranged to come in a day early and meet my family.

It was an incredible day. These people are hilarious and fun and we laughed and laughed and laughed. It started with lunch in Nevada, Missouri, with cousin Penny. After that, we met cousin Sue at the old-folks’ home where Penny’s mother, Mary, lives. Mary is the sole surviving sibling of my grandfather, Crawford Brown. (Crawford died in 1996, two weeks shy of his 90th birthday.) She is 99 years old and has a twinkle in her eye and is quick to laugh. That’s us in the picture up top.

Then we went to Milo, Missouri, where my great grandparents (Crawford’s parents), who are Penny and Sue’s grandparents, had lived. I saw the site of their in-town house, where they moved from the farm in 1959, when they were in their 70s. And we went to Milo cemetery, where they are buried. We also saw the site of their farm (and I heard many hilarious stories about Sue’s antics at the farm when she was little).

The graves of my great grandparents, A.J. and Rhoda Brown

The graves of my great grandparents, A.J. and Rhoda Brown

Then these lovely women took me on a quest to find the cemetery where my great grandfather Jeffries (my grandmother Sue’s father and father-in-law to Crawford) was buried, along with his parents and grandparents. Mind you, these Jeffries are no relation to Penny and Sue, but they were up for helping me find the cemetery. It wasn’t easy. We had some directions from an old book, but they didn’t turn out to be entirely accurate. To make matters more complicated, there are two cemeteries within a few miles with homophonic names (Meyer’s and Myer’s), so asking directions wasn’t terribly fruitful. But then I got my husband, Barry, on the case from home and Google maps saved the day. Once there, Sue and Penny helped me find the actual graves. Here’s the grave marker for my great grandfather’s grandparents.

The grave marker for my 3rd great grandparents, R.A. and Harriett Jeffries

The grave marker for my 3rd great grandparents, R.A. and Harriett Jeffries

Luckily the day was beautiful, sunny and in the upper 70s or low 80s. It wouldn’t have seen like such a fun adventure the next day, when it was cold and windy.

After our grave-hopping (we went to both Meyer’s and Myer’s, as well as Milo cemeteries), we went by the site of the original homestead near Rockville, Missouri, that my great grandparents established when they moved to Missouri from Nebraska in about 1914. And after that we met more cousins at a Mexican restaurant in Nevada for dinner, as well as Sue’s 90-year-old father (widower of Crawford’s sister, Nancy). A family reunion date was selected for 2014. I am eager to attend!

By the time I headed up to my hotel in Blue Springs, Missouri, I was exhausted. But so tickled to have had such a wonderful day.

When I started doing family history research, it was all about a solitary detective hunt with feelings of triumph when vital records were obtained. What I didn’t realize it would be about was connecting with family, sharing stories and memories, and uncovering life-enhancing relationships.

I am so grateful for the time spent with this new-found family. And I am so grateful for my interest in genealogy!