Trying out Ancestry.com family tree

Ancestry family tree screenshot from iPhoneThanks to the lively discussion here earlier this month about public vs private family trees on Ancestry, I decided to go ahead and create a GEDCOM file from my Reunion software and upload it to Ancestry. I  considered the pros and cons of a public tree, as expressed in the comments of that post (I so appreciate the comments!), and decided to make the tree private when I uploaded it, do some quality control, and then make it public once it’s ready.

I’d been keeping all my data on my computer in Reunion, rather than on Ancestry, because I don’t like to rely on cloud-based databases; I really like the information to reside on my hard drive. But I decided to upload the file for four reasons:

  • I’m intrigued by the prospect of the shaky-leaf hints (though I understand they often lead nowhere).
  • I would like to find cousins.
  • I would like to help others with my research.
  • I just did an Ancestry DNA test and I want to be able to link the results to a tree to give me maximum return.

So I uploaded the tree this week, which was very easy. But then I hit a snag. I am meticulous about not adding any ancestor for which I don’t have a source to my tree. Everything is sourced. But the sources don’t upload in a satisfactory manner. The source is noted in non-hyperlinked text. So the source is there, but isn’t as helpful to others (or me) as I was expecting. (I did a google search and apparently that’s just the way Reunion talks to Ancestry.)

The shaky leaf hints, though, make it easy to add many of these sources as hyperlinks that others can click on. So yesterday, I spent some time going through the hints, evaluating them, and adding them to records. I’m starting with the Rasco family (that’s my father’s mother’s family, and this quarter’s focus).

Two challenges came to the forefront immediately. One is keeping my Reunion software updated while I’m adding things to my Ancestry tree. (In other words, if I come across new data that’s not already in Reunion, I have to be diligent about adding it to Reunion as well as to the tree.) The other is overwhelm. I need to take this one person at a a time, and try not to skip around or get lost in exploring and evaluating other people’s research on my family members.

For the moment, the tree is still private as I get a handle on the source situation. But i intend to make it public soon. I’m already so grateful for those who have public trees.

I think ultimately I’ll be glad that I have put my tree on Ancestry. It seems to have potentially added another layer of complexity (and work) to my research activities–and I really do like to keep things simple. But once I get through this source situation, I think it will be great to have an online tree and I’ll be delighted if it helps others and helps me meet new-to-me cousins.

End-of-the-quarter evaluation

brownfanchartAt the beginning of the year, I put together a research scheme in which I would focus on researching (and organizing the research) one branch of my family each quarter. The first quarter ended yesterday, so I thought it might be a good idea to report how it went.

Overall, I’m pleased. The first quarter of 2014 was devoted to my father’s father’s side of the family, the Adamses. Knowing which family I was researching kept me focused, which was terrific. The downside is that I certainly didn’t finish researching that family (like I ever would), nor did I finish organizing the Adams research that I had uncovered in the past. But that’s okay, because I can pick it up again in January 2015. And, of course, I can work on it whenever I want–my plan isn’t a law, after all.

So now that it’s the second quarter, I turn my attention to the Browns, my mother’s father’s side of the family. That’s timely for a couple of reasons. They’re a midwestern family for a number of generations back and I am paying a visit to the Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, Missouri, next week (!). Also, there is a Brown Family Reunion in June, so I’ll be extra motivated to uncover and organize my research so I can share it with cousins.

I’m kind of excited to switch the focus of my research. I’d gotten the easy stuff out of the way with the Adams family and of course when it gets more difficult, it requires more patience. So switching gears is quite welcome.

I think it’s a little early to proclaim my quarterly research scheme a success, but at this point I can certainly imagine doing it again next year!

Don’t let the backlog get you down

Metadata can make digital files more searchable

Metadata on my GGGF’s death certificate

Lately I’ve been thinking about the backlog of electronic files that I should tag with metadata and that I should rename for consistency and ease of access. (I wrote about that in this post, It’s all about access.) When I think about doing all that, I get overwhelmed. And then I don’t want to do any of it.

I realized though, that I don’t have to wait until the backlog has been completed to start establishing new patterns with new files that I save. It’s just like I tell my clients who have an overabundance of accumulated mail in their homes: They don’t have to go through all the old mail before figuring out how to handle the new mail.

So starting today, I’m creating a simple file naming system for individual files. (I think it’s going to be Year-Document Type-First Name-Last Name). And all new files will be named accordingly.  I’ll also work on creating the habit of adding metadata immediately after saving a file. So my new files will be in good shape and I won’t be adding to the backlog. At the same time, little by little, I can work through my backlog of files and change file names and add metadata tags. I can do it systematically. And I can also just edit the file name and add metadata every time I find myself accessing a file.

One of my personal mantras is “Let it be easy.” This feels like an easy approach to a project that’s been causing me a little stress.

Doing a little research every day

Doing genealogy research five days a weekFinding time to do family history research is a problem for me. I bet I’m not alone! Even though it really is important to me, I’m having a hard time making it a priority. I was thinking about that problem recently and thought about how I’ve learned through the years that daily actions are easier to sustain then less frequent actions. Between this blog and my Peace of Mind Organizing blog, for instance, I try to blog five days a week. And, for me, that’s easier than blogging weekly.

Then it hit me. What I need to do is make a commitment to doing a little family history research, or a little organizing of my family history research, five days a week. It might be for only 15 minutes. But, as I tell my clients, a little bit of daily effort can make a big difference. Another benefit of daily effort is that you get into the habit of doing it.

This represents a shift for me–before, I think I was having trouble finding the large blocks of time I felt I needed. But I know that I can get quite a bit done in a short bit of time. (A timer really helps.) So now, knowing that I just need to squeeze in at least 15 minutes, I’m less overwhelmed by finding time and getting started. And since I’ve done research so recently, I have a better idea of what I want to work on.

I’ll be interested to see how this works out. I’m feeling very hopeful. I came up with this idea on Thursday of last week. So I did research on Friday (and blogged about it). This afternoon, I remembered my commitment, so I sat down and did some work. I have a feeling that this schedule will actually take some pressure off me!

P.S. Have you had a chance to take my poll on what types of posts you’d like to read on this blog? This will be my last reminder; I just want to give you a chance to express your opinion by taking the quick poll.