When do you do your genealogy research?

Setting aside time for genealogy researchI love doing genealogy research. I just have a hard time finding the time to do it. When I was at RootsTech two weeks ago, I was immersed in genealogy talk for three days and it was divine. Trouble is, I went from there to visit family members with health issues and was immediately immersed in that. I’m back home now, but have been booked solid with organizing clients. So I have yet to do any research, despite my getting all jazzed up in Salt Lake City.

I realize that the time to do genealogy research is not going to just present itself. I need to set aside time in my busy schedule to do it. I think I’ll set a goal of doing research at least once a week. That feels realistic. Given my work schedule of late, working on family history on a weekend is probably going to be easiest.

I’ve learned through my blogging that if I want to get something done, I should do it first thing in the morning. So I think that for the next month or so I’m going to try hard to do family history research (for as long a period of time as I’m able) first thing on Saturday mornings. If I’m seeing a client on Saturday (which is fairly often the case), I’ll shift to Sunday. It’s rare that I have both Saturday and Sunday clients.

Maybe you can help me. When do you do your genealogy research? Do you schedule it or does it just happen when you feel like it? I’d love to learn from your experience!

Rededicating myself to collateral lines

reunionchildrenWhen I rebooted my genealogy research a few years ago and started my family tree from scratch, adding only those people for whom I had verified source information, I focused on my direct-line ancestors. That approach felt less overwhelming, less tedious, and it allowed me to move up my family tree more quickly, which felt rewarding.

In August 2013, I pondered whether I should be adding collateral lines (the siblings of my direct ancestors) and concluded it would be a good idea. I started adding children I found on censuses, properly sourcing them, of course. It did prove to be a bit tedious and it sort of dropped off my radar.

Then I took an Ancestry DNA test and transferred my DNA results to Family Tree DNA. Since then I’ve been contacted by a number of distant cousins. While I’m still trying to figure out how to use the DNA results to further my research, one thing has become very apparent: Having those siblings in my family tree would help me, as well as these cousins, figure out our relationships.

I’d like at the very least to have their name and approximate birth dates, easily obtainable from my ancestors’ census records. More information would be great, and maybe I’ll do more research on these siblings eventually, but right now I’m setting my sights on names and birth dates and states.

So I’m going for it. I’ve moved the goal of adding collateral lines to each family to the top of my list of things to accomplish when I’m focusing on a certain line. I’d added a sheet called Siblings Entered to my progress tracker. (I was glad to see that I’ve already entered the siblings of eleven ancestors; it’s a start.) The clues these collateral lines will give me should make them less tedious to enter. At last, I’m really seeing the value of the effort.

I look forward to having a more robust family tree!

The best organizing system

The best organizing system is the one you useWhen it comes to organizing systems, there aren’t many absolutes. But there’s one thing I know for sure: The best organizing system is the one that works for you.

An organizing system that seems great in concept isn’t great unless you use it. And an organizing system that to the outside world might appear flawed is an excellent system if you use it to your satisfaction.

Here are some signs that your genealogy organizing system isn’t doing its job:

  • You can’t find the information you seek without a lot of effort
  • You find yourself thinking, “It’s around here somewhere.”
  • Your workspace is cluttered
  • You have an overwhelming backlog
  • You feel resistance to organizing your research

If you hear yourself saying, “My organizing system would be great, if only I would use it,” take that as a clue that your organizing system isn’t great, for you. You might need to tweak your system. Or you might even need a complete overhaul.

For example, you might switch from binders to folders, if you find yourself with a perpetual pile of papers or if you have papers stuck into the binders without being hole punched or put into sheet protectors. (I’m a folder, not a binder, person.) Personally over the last couple of years I’ve made a shift away from printing and filing everything to saving documents on my hard drive. That’s a big shift, but it’s working for me.

Here are some of the characteristics I look for in a great organizing system:

  • It’s easy to implement
  • It’s intuitive
  • It’s as complex as it needs to be and not a bit more
  • It’s used

If you find yourself resisting the organizing aspect of your genealogy research, perhaps you could consider how you might make your system better for you. Remember, there’s no perfect way to organize.

 

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.

2015gengoalsscreenshot

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!