06 January 2015

Starting With A Clean Slate - Genealogy Do-Over Week 1

This week for the Genealogy Do-Over the topics are about cleaning the slate and starting fresh.



The first step is to set aside previous research. 95% of my research is digitally stored, so it's pretty easy to set aside and hopefully not too tempting to look at. My father, who has a deep drawer of files might not have such an easy time, but for me it's fairly simple. Also, considering that I lost my most recent gedcoms/rootsmagic files (don't worry, my mourning period has passed), starting over there isn't too difficult either.


The second step is preparation for future research. This definitely isn't the exciting part of family history work for me, but I know it will pay off in the end.

I usually do research after the kids go to bed, and on Sundays when my husband can watch them and give me a few hours to myself. This part of research works best for me because it provides the greatest amount of time distraction free. However it also leads to late nights, which leads to tired thinking and therefore more mistakes. From now on I should set a stopping time for myself and not just get sucked in. After all, if I track my research properly I should be able to pick it up again the next day without too much trouble.

I have a research binder that I should always have with me when researching. It has word lists for the languages I often need to search in, maps of the places I'm researching (very helpful for me), pedigree charts, and various forms I use often. It also has a research log/notes, which needs to be updated.

The last topic for this week is about establishing 'best practices'.

I have been pretty good about citing sources, but not as good as I could be. I write down the basic info, but want to be better at proper citation. Luckily for me, many genealogy websites can do it for you. There are also citation websites that you can simply fill in a form and it will give you a proper citation. And of course there are source citation forms/templates on RootsMagic that I can utilize for when I input things by hand into the program.

One other thing I specifically want to work on is tracking my research. I have a simple columned form I made that I write the date, where I am researching, and who I looked up. This is fine, but sometimes isn't enough. I need to find a more detailed form. I should be recording not just those basics, but also what I found and what info was there. I will look online to see if there are already forms out there that will work for me, or I will make a new one.

Here are my "must do's" for future genealogy research:
1. Family history without citations is mythology. Always cite my sources.
2. Assume nothing. People's memories are often wrong, and family stories are embellished. If you can't find someone where you think they should be, throw out those assumptions and look somewhere else.
3. Record where I search. I don't want to have to search the same records for the same people over and over.
4. Back up my files. I'd hate to have to start all over again because of a computer crash (again).
5. Remember some people just won't be found. There are some brick walls that I may never break, and I should learn to set them aside when I feel like banging my head against them. I can always come back later if I am feeling too cocky about my research.