Grab Your Genealogy by the Horns: Five Ways to Take Control of Your Research in 2015
December 29, 2014
Thanks to guest blogger, Lisa Alzo, for this great article!
Can you believe that it is almost 2015? It is now time to evaluate what we accomplished during the previous 12 months, and set new goals for the coming year. “Out with the old and in with the new.” In the Chinese New Year, 2015 is designated as the year of the Goat (also translated as "Sheep" or "Ram").
Perhaps, like me, you have a list of genealogy-related tasks you plan to work on. If you want to grab your genealogy by the horns, here are five ways to take control of your research in 2015.
1. Define your goals. List all the tasks you hope to accomplish with your genealogy research in 2015 (find elusive ancestors, break down brick walls, start writing your family history, scan your photographs, organize your digital and paper files, etc.). Next, take your list a step further and break those items you've listed down—into weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual goals—to help set benchmarks for completing them. When you track your success, you will feel a sense of accomplishment. Once you declare your goals, don’t let them stay buried in a journal, or become part of your digital clutter. Print out your list and hang it in your office where you can see the goals and focus on them each day.
2. Let go of old habits. Genealogists are often creatures of habit. We often search the same databases in the same way or get distracted by the latest technology tools or apps. Some of our habits may also be hurting our research progress (for example, not keeping a research log, letting our filing get backlogged, or neglecting to copy down a source citation for records or documents we find. This year, identify your problem areas and make a point to do better.
3. Get organized. To do your best research, you need to set yourself up for success. Perhaps you need to clean up your genealogy database, create a template for your research log, file that stack of papers, scan those photographs, or locate the materials you need to write about your ancestors. Shop for supplies (archival safe filing products—check Hollinger Metal Edge, or your local office supply store) purchase or download software or apps you need (e.g. Legacy Family Tree software, Evernote, Dropbox, etc.). For help with organizing your materials, pick up a copy of the book, How to Archive Family Keepsakes by Denise May Levenick (aka The Family Curator). If scanning photographs is on your list, then another “must have” is Geoff Rasmussen’s book Digital Imaging Essentials.
4. Don’t go it alone. No genealogist is an island. As genealogists we are accustomed to working solo. Find a research partner who understands the challenges of chasing down ancestors, someone who can help you stay focused on your goals, and keep you motivated to make 2015 a great year for your genealogy. There are groups you can join too on Facebook or Google Plus. Check out the “Genealogy on Facebook” List compiled by Katherine R. Willson, to find a group that fits your interests. You don’t have to solve your brick wall problems alone when you have genea-friends who share the same passion, frustrations, and successes as you.
5. Hit the reset button. When you began your genealogy were you just a name collector? Do you question the validity of some of your data? Have you been inconsistent with source documentation? Do you practice start and stop genealogy and forget where you left off? If you find that your genealogy documentation is completely out of control, or discover major holes in your research, perhaps you need to step back, regroup and start again. If so, join professional genealogist Thomas MacEntee for the Genealogy Do-Over. There is a Facebook group (search for Genealogy Do-Over) you can join if you are planning to be a part of the Genealogy Do-Over, or if you just want to watch and track participant progress and learn new research tricks - this is the place for you to ask questions and also share advice about the Genealogy Do-Over. This is a 13-week program, broken down into specific tasks each week. The schedule of topics is posted at Geneabloggers. The list is representative and your mileage may differ . . . meaning that your research habits and specific research projects may warrant different areas of concentration in terms of skill building. Participants (and viewers) may agree or disagree with the topics or the order of the topics, so you can add or remove topics that you feel are not relevant to your specific genealogy research project. Each week, a post will appear at GeneaBloggers covering the Genealogy Do-Over topics. Posts will include tips, advice and resources. There will also be a special Legacy webinar “My Genealogy Do-Over - A Year of Learning from Research Mistakes” presented by Thomas MacEntee on Wednesday, January 21, 2015. Register for this webinar at FamilyTreeWebinars.com.
I am ready to make 2015 my best genealogy year ever. How about you?