The Do-Over community on Facebook has grown to over 2,200 members! Throughout this process, I am learning new ways to look at my information, organize it, and preserve my research. The flow of information is invaluable. Is it overwhelming? Yes. Do I let it completely take over my life? No. See my post here on how I manage these groups instead of letting the groups manage me.
So how is my Do-Over progressing?
This week’s topics were:
- Conducting a Self-Interview
- Conducting Family Interviews
- Setting Research Goals
Well, here we go. We really are back at square one. First rule of genealogy: don’t talk about … oh wait, wrong club. First rule of genealogy … start with yourself.
Objective: Conducting a Self-Interview
Because all I did during week one was enter the few items I had in my file already, the first thing I wanted to do was build a profile for myself just like I would any other relative. I printed out some Family Group Sheets (FGS) to fill in – because sometimes paper is just better (I also didn’t want to accidentally end up on the internet), and started filling it in. Then a thought occurred to me. Sure, I know pretty much everything about myself. But can I prove it?
Obviously, I was present at my own birth, but do I remember it? Not likely. So I needed my birth certificate. Check. Do I remember being baptized? Nope; even though I was there. I need my baptism certificate or a church record. Check.
I continued like this for all the major events in my life for which I had documentation. I added those events for which I needed to find documentation to my (handwritten) to-do list. Things like residence addresses, vacations, etc. were entered but I entered sources for “personal knowledge” so even though I don’t have a piece of paper that said I took a vacation, I still have a source. I was amazed at how many different places I stashed my personal papers. Seriously, someone should come in and organize this place. I scanned everything and the originals were placed in a holding bin until I can get some archival storage materials. My important papers (birth certificate, social security card, etc.) were placed in the safe where they should have been all along. I even scanned a copy of my Will.
I’ll continue to add information as I come across it, but I won’t be actively searching for records until later.
Objective: Conducting Family Interviews
I approached this the same way I approached my own interview. I sent an FGS to my mom’s siblings and my dad’s siblings, as well as to my paternal grandmother. I requested copies of any documentation they were comfortable providing, offering to reimburse the cost or make the copies myself. I avoided pressuring them into giving me their birth certificates or social security cards or anything like that. Turns out, people are funny about those things. I assured everyone that I would not make any of their information public as long as they still drew breath. I can neither confirm nor deny that some might have taken this as a threat. What? Desperate times, people.
I also have a digital recording of an interview with my now-deceased grand aunt (my paternal grandfather’s sister) and hours of digital recordings of conversations between my mom and her two sisters with two of their childhood neighbors when we went to New Jersey last year, as well as some conversations I recorded while we were chatting at the hotel in the evenings about things my mom and her sisters remembered about growing up. Those need to be transcribed, and that is now on my to-do list (mainly because I know that transcribing them will create additional to-do lists, and I’m trying to stay focused). Thank goodness for post-it notes is all I can say.
Also – if it’s not in your genealogy toolbox already, put it on your to-do list: get a digital recorder and carry it with you always. You never know when you might bump into someone who has information you need — or you’re driving home from work one day and have an epiphany about where to look for information about an elusive ancestor. Most times, you only have to press a nice big button to begin recording, which is easier (and safer while you’re driving) than using a smart phone app. The one I have (at right) was about $50 at Walmart and has more than paid for itself just in preserved memories. Apparently it has been discontinued, but there are similar ones on the market. Plus, it’s a lot easier to transcribe a digital recording than it is to find an actual Dictaphone transcriber for microcassette tapes these days. I also recommend getting one that has a slot for an SD card so you can expand the capacity.
Objectives: Setting Research Goals
This one sort of got underway while I was doing the other things – in the form of the to-do lists. Those will eventually become research goals at a later date when I am convinced I have entered and documented all the information I have available to me right now. I now have 5 individuals in my family tree, so progress is being made.
I am taking a page out of Thomas MacEntee’s book and approaching all of my research from the “space of I don’t know.” Being a huge fan of mysteries, I treat my research like I’m solving a crime. I am trying to follow the evidence and let it guide me instead of looking for evidence to prove what I think is true — or what I might want to be true. I’m reminded of that saying … something about the tail wagging the dog. I want to be the one wagging my own tail.
So at this point (as far as my database is concerned), until I get information back from my family, I’m not even sure who my paternal grandparents are!
What else am I doing?
I continue to enter documents into my database, but only for those relationships that have been proven (which is why I only have 5 people in my tree). I recently found information that I have a sister, so yay! Now I get to enter her information too.
I have also taken an inventory of my personal reference collection (the books that are physically on my shelves) and started adding them to my OneNote locality (or other appropriate) notebooks I don’t forget to use them. I’m still working on getting my FamilyTree Magazine articles – only 300 more to go – and websites into the appropriate notebooks too. I haven’t even started on the printed material from conferences, webinars, and workshops yet.
Slow and steady …
Do we share ancestors? Email me: lostancestors AT gmail DOT com
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