I love attending genealogy conferences and learning about new opportunities to learn more about my ancestors. I sat in on some of the National Archives Virtual Genealogy Fair and learned about new-to-me records I might explore for information on my ancestors. I got really excited about the possibilities. And then I was struck by revelation:
I will benefit more from processing the information I’ve already found than from seeking out new information.
I’m speaking personally, of course. For me, I think one way I can avoid being blindsided by overwhelm in my research is by focusing on the (not-unsubstantial) documents I’ve already found. I want to examine and evaluate them, keeping track of the clues contained in them and taking note of new avenues of research. I’ll keep a list of these next steps and I’ll try very hard not to explore them until I’ve caught up with what I have on hand. If I just keep gathering new documents without taking the time to analyze and benefit from them, I’ll constantly feel behind. That’s not how I want to feel about my genealogy research!
I’ve done a pretty good job of collecting military and pension files for some of my ancestors. I’m going to make processing them a priority. So far, here’s what I have:
- Three Union Civil War pension files, which are various stage of processing, from almost complete to barely started
- One Confederate Civil War pension file I have (from the Alabama archives)
- A Civil War Compiled Service Record for one ancestor I downloaded years ago that I didn’t do much with
- A newly acquired military record for my great grandfather’s service in the Philippine Insurrection
In addition to processing those documents, I’d like to continue systematically checking my source documentation.
If I focus on these resources I’ve already gathered through the end of the year, I feel like I can start 2017 with a sense of accomplishment and a fabulous to-do list of things to research. So much of the fun of genealogy research is the thrill of the hunt. But if I take the time to analyze the clues I find, the hunt will be even more thrilling.