Today is the sixth anniversary of my first post on Organize Your Family History. I started the blog as a way to marry my love for organizing with my love for genealogy. It’s grown past my expectations (though to be honest, I hadn’t spent much time on expectations). And I’ve grown as a genealogist along the way.
In my first four blogiversary posts, I cited some statistics about the blog but last year I realized that has to be pretty boring to anybody but me. Last year I created a blogiversary post about how I’d evolved as a genealogist since starting the blog. I re-read that post this morning and really liked it. So I decided to update it, rather than creating a new blogiversary post from scratch.
One of the great things about having a blog is that your history is at your disposal. So here’s my evolution as a genealogist over the last six years, as documented on this blog:
- I’m almost completely paperless. On August 12, 2012, I wrote, “I’m a paper person. I know I could (and perhaps should) save documents, like census images, as pdfs and just organize them on my computer. But I really like printing them out and keeping them in files. So that’s what I do.” Wow. Nowadays I almost never print anything out and the documents are beautifully organized on my computer. I’ve developed an awesome digital workflow that works really well for me. (In October 2017, I added a helpful post called How I process a downloaded document.) And I’ve even coauthored (with scanning guru Brooks Duncan) The Paperless Genealogy Guide. What a difference six years makes!
- I now understand that researching away from my desk can be really beneficial. Six years ago, all my research was done online, from my desk. And that was great. But now I’ve gone on some great research trips, both library trips and cemetery trips. (I need to start doing courthouse trips!) They enhance my research so much. Trips that take me to where my ancestors lived make me feel closer to them. I’m planning a trip to Kentucky this fall where I hope to visit cemeteries, libraries, courthouses and an archive. Can’t wait!
- I’m finally keeping a research log. In 2012 I wrote about keeping a research log. I had the best of intentions, but it didn’t stick. At least once a year, I would resolve to try again. And I would fail. At the end of 2016, I set a goal of creating a genealogy research log habit in 2017 and I set up a Facebook group for those who also want to create the habit, Genealogy Research Loggers. (Feel free to join us; it’s a pretty quiet group.) I’m proud to say that I’ve kept up the habit! Part of my success is the simplicity of the log I keep. But it’s doing its job of keeping me focused and helping me remember what I’ve researched and where I am in my research. It’s definitely worth the effort (and by now it feels like almost no effort)!
- I’m researching more frequently. Thanks to the 30 x 30 challenges I started in 2015 (in which I challenge myself and my readers to do 30 minutes of genealogy research each day for 30 days), I’m getting a lot more research done. And since I have a research log in which I write next steps, I don’t have the barrier of deciding what to work on when I sit down to start a research session. The result is more frequent researching, though the sessions may be shorter. I actually researched every day from August 1, 2017 until I went to RootsTech at the end of February 2018! In the process, I learned that daily research can be really valuable. It keeps my head in the game and keeps genealogy top of mind.
- I’m more focused. One of the challenges I find with genealogy research is that as the family tree grows, there are so many opportunities to explore new things (or shiny objects). At the beginning of 2014, I created a scheme in which I would focus on one family line (that is the ancestors of one grandparent) each quarter. That helped me maintain some focus. In 2017, I decided I would spend the whole year focused on one line, my paternal grandfather’s line. I imagine that might sound boring to some, but I love it! It happens that my grandfather’s grandfather has a 138-document Civil War pension file that is rich with information and offers lots of clues to explore. I transcribed the whole thing and entered data from it into Reunion and it became the basis for much exploration of his descendants. I’ve stuck with the Adams family line for the past year but plan to shift my focus to my father’s maternal line, the Rascos, at the beginning of July.
- I started researching my collateral lines extensively. In 2012, I was focused solely on my direct lines. Then I started adding children from censuses to my tree. But in the past year I did some really enjoyable deep dives into some of my collateral lines. (I was going to deep that I worried I was researching too far out on the branches of my tree.) I let go of that worry and now have an appreciation for how recording every bit of information can pay huge dividends later.
- I went from a conference attendee to a conference speaker! I love conferences, especially genealogy conferences. Since 2013, I’ve been to more than a dozen genealogy conferences, ranging from smaller local or regional conferences to RootsTech, which draws some 10,000 to 20,000 attendees. In February 2017 I was thrilled to be a presenter at RootsTech. I co-presented, with Brooks Duncan (my Paperless Genealogy Guide co-writer), a session called Go Paperless: Streamline and Digitize Your Research. In October 2017, I did a talk on going paperless at the St. Louis Genealogy Conference and am slated to speak there again in October 2018. If you have any topics you’d like to hear my speak about at a conference, feel free to suggest them!
- I collaborated with Family Tree University and Family Tree Magazine. Thanks to my popular How They Do It series, I was asked by Family Tree University to create and host a What the Pros Know: Genealogy Organizing Tips in January 2018. And the editor of Family Tree Magazine asked me to create a feature article from the interviews. Then I was asked to host a second What the Pros Know workshop, this one on Research Secrets of the Pros. These have been fun to do and I’m grateful for the exposure!
Bloggers are really fortunate in that reading blog archives can bring to mind long-forgotten memories. I’ve enjoyed putting together this post to remind me how far I’ve come in the last six years. I want to thank you for reading the blog and give thanks those of you who comment and especially those I’ve met in person. This blog has enhanced my life and I’m very grateful!