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.

Going beyond online resources

Going beyond online resources

The National Personnel Records Center

Like many beginning genealogy researchers, my first inclination is to go online to look for a fact or find a resource. If I don’t find what I’m looking for, more often than not I move on to the next thing to research online. But as I’m listening to veteran genealogists share their knowledge and expertise at the National Genealogical Society’s annual conference, I’m learning that online resources are, of course, just the tip of the iceberg.

The first break-out session I attended was “But I’ve Looked Everywhere,” presented by Barbara Vines Little, CG, FNGS, FVGS. It was a tremendous session and a great way for me to kick off the conference. She went over an amazing array of resources where you might find the information you’re looking for. And guess what? Many of those resources aren’t easily available online.

After two days (so far) of the conference, I’ve come to realize that I need (and want) to get out of the house and explore the amazing repositories of information available in my own community. I’m fortunate to live where there are not one, but two, large public library headquarters (St. Louis City and County), both of which have genealogy departments. There is also the Missouri History Museum Library as well as the National Personnel Records Center of the  National Archives at St. Louis (the largest federal archive outside of Washington, D.C.). Also, the Missouri State Archives is just a couple of hours away in Jefferson City. They provide a great deal of information online through Missouri Digital Heritage, but I learned at the conference that there is much more information available that is not digitized. There is much for me to discover by researching in person.

One thing I’ve learned when I have gone out of town to research at various libraries is that it’s easy for me to get overwhelmed and not take full advantage of what the repository has to offer. That’s because, I think, I’ve gone in thinking that I wanted to cast a wide net and learn as much as possible. Now I’m thinking I’m better off with a single focus, particularly if I’m using these local libraries where I can return again and again without effort.

In her talk, Barbara Vines Little said something that keeps echoing in my brain:

“You have to know what the question is before you can look for the answer.”

 –Barbara Vines Little

I need to go into to these libraries and archives with a very specific question in mind. That will help me stay focused and help me use my time well. I’m excited to figure out those specific questions and get started!

Getting ready for a conference

ngslogo200Tomorrow, the National Genealogical Society’s annual conference begins. It’s being held in St. Charles, Missouri, about 30 minutes from my home, so I am not staying at the conference hotel. Since no travel is required, I’ve barely given the conference much advance thought.

But today’s the day for me to focus on it and I’m getting really excited! I love attending conferences (I go to both genealogy and organizing conferences regularly) and I know that some pre-planning can be really beneficial. So today, I’m going to do the following:

  • Pick up the conference registration materials
  • Go through the syllabus and select the classes I’ll plan to attend
  • Familiarize myself with the conference app, which I downloaded a month or two ago
  • Mark the classes I select in the conference app
  • Go through the list of exhibitors and note the ones I want to make sure I see
  • Write down my goals for the conference
  • Think about the people I want to try to meet
  • Reach out to the blog readers who have told me they’ll be at the conference

Taking a few moments to think about and write down my goals for the conference is time well spent. Keeping my goals top of mind will inform my decisions about how to spend my conference time. In my case, I have goals for both my genealogy research and for this blog.

This is my first NGS conference and I’m really excited it’s finally here. I look forward to digging in to the conference materials this afternoon. I know I have four days of great learning and great interactions ahead of me.

If you’re attending the conference, please make sure you say hi!

Finding time to do your research

Ticking clockI have two blogs, one at my organizing business’s website, Peace of Mind Organizing, and this one. I try to blog twice a week at each. The focuses are separate (though the common theme is organizing) but occasionally a post written for one can transfer right over to the other.

That’s the case today. When perusing my business blog, I realized that a post called Finding time to feed your soul would be great on this blog. So here it is.

I love doing genealogy research. It’s a fairly big part of my life—I blog twice weekly (most weeks) at my genealogy blog, Organize Your Family History, so I actually think about my family research quite a lot.

But I don’t actually research as often as I’d like. And that’s a shame, because researching my family history feeds my soul.

We’re all busy with the daily activities of life. Throw kids, aging parents, demanding work, needy spouses or sick pets into the mix and sometimes it feels like we don’t have any time to do those things that really nourish us.

I believe that doing those things is really important for self care. So how can we find the time?

Time management is all about managing priorities. If you put everyone’s needs before your own, all you’ll be doing is putting out fires. And that’s not good for you. So I think it’s important to figure out little pockets of time that you can set aside as “me time.” During that special time, you can do that thing that keeps you going and that feeds your soul.

How can you find some pockets of time when you’re already so busy?

  • Get up a half hour early to feed your soul
  • Drop an activity that you’re doing because you think you should, not because you want to
  • If you’re a TV watcher, have a no-TV day each week and put that time toward your desired activity
  • Find people who also do what you want to do (like a knitting group) and agree to do that activity together.
  • Block off time on your calendar for your soul-feeding activity
  • Explain to your family your need to have to time of your own and arrange for a redistribution of chores

The list could go on. Perhaps you just need to be a little creative.

If you’re saying to yourself, I can’t take time out for myself while my house is messy…that’ll have to wait until I get organized then please stop. It breaks my heart when people stop their messy homes from allowing them to live. Sure, work on your home, bit by bit (or hire someone to help you), but reward your efforts with some soul-nourishing activity.

Our lives our important and they should be as happy and fulfilling as possible. I’m a firm believer that we can take control of our time and do those things that bring fulfillment.

Can you make some time for yourself this weekend?

Photo by R.L. Hyde via Flickr