Let me begin by saying that this do-over is quite possibly the best thing I could have ever done for my genealogy research, my sanity, and my life in general. Why? A few reasons.
First, it has allowed me to take a step back, look at the haphazard way I was researching up to this point, and see what was working and what wasn’t.
Second, it gave me permission to slow down and not worry about how MANY individuals I have in my tree, but instead to focus on the QUALITY and COMPLETENESS of the information I have about each individual. Sure, I’d like to have my tree all the way back to my 28th great grandparents, but I doubt I’ll be able to get there by continuing to research the way I have in the past.
Third, the first two reasons above have created an almost zen-like space in my brain where things are clearer and it’s like I’m seeing all of my documentation for the first time. I know that sounds super new-age corny, but it’s true. Being able to ignore my alter ego tapping me on the shoulder saying, “hey, everyone’s got like 4,000 more ancestors than you. You’d better hurry up with that!” has been truly liberating! Because I don’t care how many ancestors everyone else has.
Week 1 Progress:
Objective: Set previous research aside
This wasn’t that hard for me. I pulled all my hanging files out of the filing cabinet and put them in the file crates I had stashed in the closet. I renamed my digital folder, thereby unlinking it from my RootsMagic tree without much resistance. I intend to use the documents in my hanging files and in my digital files so as not to reinvent the wheel, but will follow my document process map that I created here.
Objective: Prepare to Research
I created a brand new empty tree in RootsMagic so I could have a clean slate upon which to tell the story of my family. I’ve already entered all available information for myself and my parents using the documents I have on hand. I will be re-labeling my existing file folders (from
scribbled handwritten to printed) with “SURNAME, First Middle “Nickname” and YYYY-YYYY on the second line to indicate their lifespan. However, I only touch the files as I come across documentation that places the individuals in my family. Until then, they will remain in their non-existent state within the file crate.
We’re not going to discuss the two boxes of photos that I found in the closet during my prep. Just know that those photos will be identified, distributed among the appropriate individual folders, scans confirmed, and set aside for proper preservation (sorry, Laura!)
I had to giggle to myself when I was finally done entering my own documentation and put my file folder in the drawer. When you consider that I have two drawers like this that were packed full, you have to admit that it’s pretty darn funny. I have since added the documentation I had for both of my parents. And just last night I added the names of my maternal grandparents — not because I knew they were my grandparents (although that is some pretty convincing evidence), but because they were listed on my mom’s birth certificate.
In the process of going through my existing documentation, I am fighting off the urge to go sending emails and making phone calls … instead, I found some giant post-it notes that I secured on the inside cover of my file folders. That becomes my to-do list. This is a tool I will actually use because – for me – pen and paper are much more immediate than opening Evernote, finding the note I’ve already started for that person, then adding a to-do item. Immediate is what I need when I’m trying to stay out of those rabbit holes. When I’m done entering all the documentation for everyone and I start actually researching, I will take those to-do lists in the files and transfer them to Evernote. That’s when I intend to start requesting missing records and produce research plans for any troublesome items.
One of the benefits I’m already seeing is that I finally feel like I’m making an effort to get to “know” my relatives. Like, spending time with them. They are more than the paper they are printed on. They are living, breathing (well, some of them) people who all came together and through their actions and decisions made me who I am today. I feel like that deserves a little extra attention. (Maybe this will please the ancestors and they will begin to loosen their grip on some of those secrets that have held me back in the past!)
Objective: Establish Base Practices and Guidelines
Well this is the part that I started working on before the do-over technically began. I knew it would take the most time, especially if I wanted to do it properly. I have my research plan and research log. I also have my digital and paper file-naming systems. I have my document process that will ensure that I maintain CONSISTENCY in every aspect of my research. You can read about those processes here and here.
Over the next several weeks, I will be systematically going through my Chrome bookmarks and pulling out anything that is locality-related and putting it into the appropriate OneNote notebook for future reference. Depending on what other bookmarks I find in that never-ending list, I may end up creating notebooks for other more general topics (military, migration, religions, etc.). Don’t worry, Cyndi’s List and Linkpendium are still my go-to sites! I also went through all of my old copies of Family Tree and other genealogy magazines and scanned only the articles that I was interested in retaining. At some point, I need to go through those and associate them with the appropriate notebook(s) as well. Then there are the binders full of syllabi and other handouts from various conferences, workshops, institutes, and webinars that I need to pick through, determine what I should keep, and what to toss.
I need a nap.
Those things will be a constant ongoing process for me that will run concurrent with the do-over and beyond. It will take longer than the 13 weeks for this do-over, and I’m okay with that. My ultimate goal is to research an individual and, when I find a place where some event occurred in their life, be able to open my notebook for that locality and instantly have links to useful websites or information about the history of the place or people. It’s obviously not going to happen overnight.
In the meantime, I will be looking toward Week 2’s objectives:
- Setting research goals
- Conducting self-interview
- Conducting family interviews
Slow and steady … slow and steady …
How’s your Do-Over (or Go-Over) progressing?
Do we share ancestors? Email me: lostancestors AT gmail DOT com
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