Doing the research vs. organizing the research

doing research vs organizing researchI suspect that most genealogy enthusiasts prefer doing research to organizing the results. A large part of the fun (for me, anyway) is playing detective and making discoveries. That’s thrilling. But if we don’t process our finds, what good do they do us?

I was thinking about that today as I thought about whether to do some genealogy research or spend the time working on organizing my research. I feel I’ve been so out of touch with my research (still blaming my puppy, Bix, and my long work hours) that I don’t even know where I stand with anything. That makes me feel a bit paralyzed.

I could jump right back into the research and maybe have some fun, but I think I’d be better off taking stock of where things stand organization-wise. And for me that means:

  • Looking over my genealogy to-do list
  • Looking at my progress tracker and updating it if necessary
  • Looking on my hard drive for electronic files related to the Adams family (this quarter’s family) and filing them
  • Pulling out my backlog box marked “genealogy stuff to read” that I didn’t even remember I had and going through the contents. I just peeked in it and it contains documents picked up at genealogy conferences in 2015. I suspect I’ll be able to pretty swiftly dispatch a lot of it. If not, I’ll add items to my genealogy task list (like I described in my blog post, Banishing the stubborn pile).
  • Updating my task list with the tasks that will inevitably result from this activity.

That’s a pretty long list, but it shouldn’t take too long. And, I remind myself, I don’t have to do all of it. Any effort here will be beneficial. Once I have a better handle on what I’m doing and what steps I need to do to improve my organization, I’ll have a clearer head. And I’ll have more direction when it comes to doing actual research. Something tells me it will be much easier to get started researching then!

Keeping my research interesting

Keeping genealogy research interestingSince I heard Josh Taylor speak in early August, I’ve been really trying to keep a laser focus on my short research to-do list in an effort to keep from being distracted. My 30 x 30 challenge helped a lot. Since I didn’t give myself the option of not researching during that time, it was very helpful to just go to the list (which had me either transcribing one ancestor’s Civil War pension file or working on citations for another).

But here’s the thing: When my 30-day challenge was over, I took a little break, because processing those pension files started to feel a little like drudgery. And I was reluctant to go back to it. It made me realize that I need to change up the research from time to time if I’m going to do it on a regular basis.

As I pondered that, I saw the error of my ways. I took Josh Taylor’s advice to have one to three projects on my to-do list. (I had two.) But I skipped the part about also having three to five extended projects (brick walls) that I can dabble in when I need to mix it up.

So here’s what I’m going to do to keep my research interesting and, I hope, to get back to daily research: I’m adding one main project to my list along with five extended projects/problems. That’s my list pictured above.

I have a leisurely weekend ahead, so I’m hoping to enjoy doing some genealogy research. My revamped list will help!

An embarrassment of riches

bambooforestOne of my tendencies when it comes to my genealogy research is to get overwhelmed and then paralyzed. I’ve worked hard to avoid the “Where do I start?” question that used to prevent me from getting to work.

My feelings of overwhelm have taken on a new quality of late. I went to two excellent genealogy conferences (the National Genealogical Society conference and the Southern California Genealogical Society’s Jamboree) within in one month one another recently and I learned about so many amazing resources to pursue that I don’t know which way to turn.

On top of that, I took action after the first day of the NGS conference and ordered Civil War pension files for three of my Union soldier ancestors and now have literally 300 pages of documents to go through. (That’s exciting but overwhelming!)

It’s an embarrassment of riches. I feel like there are so many good things to pursue, I don’t know how to choose. (On my other organizing blog, I’ve written about how challenging I find it to have too many choices.)

Doing nothing because I have too many choices is clearly not a good option. So I need to figure out how to narrow things down.

When I was at the two conferences, I used my mobile devices to add genealogy tasks to my Things task-management app.  But just looking at that list has become overwhelming.

So here’s what I’ve decided to do:

  • Sort the tasks by surname
  • Remind myself of my quarterly goals
  • Prioritize the tasks so that I can see the Rasco ones easily, since the new quarter starts tomorrow (and I’ll therefore be shifting my focus to the Rasco family)
  • Give myself permission to work on pension records even though they’re not Rasco-related, so that I can work on properly processing them, a little at a time

Just giving myself a plan of action has made me feel less overwhelmed. Assigning surnames to the tasks so I can isolate one family has limited the options and made me feel more calm.

I think I’m going to create a separate “Opportunities” list that I’ll populate with the various resources I want to explore so that I can get inspired without having the distraction of including those resources in my genealogy task list.

Genealogy is such a journey of discovery. Sometimes I feel surrounded by data and learning opportunities and I can’t see where I’m going. Creating a clear path to follow will help me stay focused and happy while I explore my roots.

Photo by Stale Grut via Unsplash.

How do you spell genealogy? P-A-T-I-E-N-C-E

Good genealogy takes patienceThe word that kept running through my mind as I took the excellent classes at last week’s National Genealogical Society’s conference is patience. As I listened to professional genealogists talk about strategies for success and skill building, I was reminded that good genealogy research takes time. It takes thoroughness. And it takes patience.

When I first dipped my toe into genealogy about 15 years ago, I went to an Internet cafe when I was visiting my parents (it was the days before I owned and traveled with a laptop), got on some website (probably Family Search) and started clicking through trees, going backwards in time. I created handwritten pedigree charts and was thrilled with how quickly my family tree grew.

I took everything at face value and evaluated nothing. By the time my “research” took me back to a Prince of Wales, I realized that perhaps some critical thinking was in order. I became overwhelmed at the notion of having to verify everything and put away those pedigree charts for almost a decade.

Six years ago, I decided to pick it up again and start from scratch. I’m using software now (Reunion) and nothing gets added to my tree without a source. The tree is growing slowly.

I figured out this year that I want my family tree branches to grow out, not up. While I appreciate the thrill of breaking into a new generation, I recognize now that I shouldn’t grow upward without taking the time to grow the branches outward. So I’m adding the siblings of my relatives to my tree, which can be painstaking. I’m also trying to add as many sources as possible to each fact.

In the NGS class that I mentioned in my last post, “But I’ve Looked Everywhere,” Barbara Vines Little says that we should have look for every sibling in every census. That takes patience. Combing through records, particularly unindexed records, takes patience. Figuring out alternate spellings to search or exploring friends, neighbors and associates to find elusive ancestors takes patience.

Yes, it can be thrilling to click backward in time, taking other people’s research at face value. Yet the rewards of patiently and thoroughly finding and citing sources are much greater. Good genealogists are patient people. They celebrate the small victories. And they move on to the next one, however long it may take.

Photo by Greg via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.