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A Genealogical To-Do List While You Keep Your Distance

A Genealogical To-Do List While You Keep Your Distance

Trying to keep your distance from everyone else while we wait out COVID-19? Stuck at home as you self-quarantine? Now is a great time to focus on genealogy. Here are twenty ideas for you to consider as you fill your days with indoor activities.

1. Establish Your Personal Learning Plan. I know you love Legacy webinars so why not think about a personal learning plan for the next two weeks or month. Choose webinars based on a theme such as :

  • The country/countries you are researching
  • DNA
  • Researching female ancestors
  • Technology
  • Every webinar in the Webinar Library by a specific category or presenter

Identify your webinars of preference, watch them, and then study the handouts. Really study the handouts by exploring the suggested websites, seeking out the books in the bibliographies, and jot down notes for future reference.

2. Scan! It’s a good time to pull out some of those photos you have been meaning to scan and start. You could even watch webinars while you do it!

3. Upload photos to the Cloud. Use this time to share and store your photos (especially those that you just scanned). Upload them to whatever makes the most sense to you, an online tree attached to specific ancestors, Facebook album tagged with descendants, FamilySearch Memories collection, or a cloud storage website like Dropbox or Sugar Sync.

4. Download your photos from your phone. Are you guilty of this? I go to a library or archive and take a bunch of photos and then think I’ll download them later. But really later never comes. So now’s a good time to download them to your computer or a cloud storage website. You could even attach them to your online trees. Some cloud storage website feature a way to automatically download them to your cloud storage (such as Dropbox).

5. Take a 2nd look at the census. I know, I know, you’ve already looked at the census. But what about exploring the pages before and after your ancestor’s listing. Or really looking at the columns and making sure you’ve recorded/analyzed everything. Or if you are using the U.S. Census, learning more about the enumerator instructions.

6. Search WorldCat. Have you used WorldCat, the world’s library catalog? Take some time to enter a keyword that is meaningful for your family history such as Quakers or Coal Mining. Take some time to search by your ancestor’s place to find local history books. To learn more about using WorldCat, see the Legacy TechZone.

7. Search ArchiveGrid to become familiar with manuscript collections in the place your ancestor lived.

8. Search the FamilySearch Catalog for the place your ancestor lived. Go through each listing to see what resources you haven’t used and then make a list of what you need to check.

9. Update your family tree. Take some time to update your family tree whether it’s on your computer or online. Have you made any new discoveries? Have new documents to add?

10. Take a new look at your DNA results. New matches? New ethnicity estimates? Take some time to watch a webinar and learn something new you can do as you review those results.

11. Timelines. Create a timeline for an ancestor you are researching now or an ancestor you want to research.

12. Revisit your grandparents. Have you researched your grandparents? What records are you missing? What social history can you add to their lives? Work on writing some short narratives/stories about their lives.

13. Create a timeline for your life. For many of us, someday we will be an ancestor. Do your future family genealogist a favor and create a timeline for your own life. Add vital record events, milestones, and historical events that had meaning for you.

14. Start a journal. We are living in a unique historical period, document it now by starting a journal. Then look at how you can add to your journal with newspapers, photos, and emails from family.

15. Digitize! Have old photocopies from library visits when you first started your family history? Digitize those, organize them on your computer and then throw them away. You should never throw away original or hard to replace records but digitized copies from records like the census, which is found only could be saved to your computer.

16. Take your genealogy to Facebook. Have you identified Facebook genealogy groups to join? Now is the time to do that. Start with lists curated by Katherine R Willson, Gail Devers, and Alona Tester.

17. Identify blog articles to read. Bloggers do such a great job of reporting on methodology, new record sets, and case studies. You can learn more about blog posts to read by using Randy Seaver’s “Best of...” weekly list or other similar lists. Randy has links to other blogger lists at the end of each weekly "Best of" blog post.

18. Work on a Research Plan. Now’s a good time to consult library and archival catalogs and your family tree and come up with a research plan. One of my favorite explanations on creating a genealogical research plan is the online article, “Creating a Genealogy Research Plan Like a Detective” by Kimberly Powell.

19. Document an heirloom. Have a family heirloom or something you hope will become an heirloom? How about taking some time to photograph it and explain its provenance? Explain what it is, what its importance is to your family, its history and where it should end up when you are no longer around. Consider long term solutions including family members willing to inherit it or a possible donation plan.

20. Take a virtual trip to your ancestral home. Sure, you might not be able to travel right now but we are so lucky to be able to access places virtually. How about using Google Maps or Google Earth, HistoryPin or even What Was There ? To access historical maps and images.

Stuck at home? That’s ok, there’s plenty to do! Look at your family history and decide what you’d like to accomplish.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.



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Document your experience during the Coronavirus Pandemic for future generations.

Point 12 wrong: do NOT visit elderly people, family members or not! They have a higher risk to get a serious form of virus infection, and should stay at home and in isolation! Let us protect and help them. Then again we can call or have virtual connections.

These are great suggestions!

21. Is this a good time to revisit your files? I am in week 6 of going through my many file folders. I've found a few errors, added a few new people, thrown out a lot of duplicate information and some from former ancestors, and freed up quite a few folders, which I hope to fill will more families. It's not very glamorous but after 14 years of doing genealogy, and making a lot of mistakes in the beginning, it's rewarding.

Even with all my genealogy materials packed away because of a move, I have at least a month's worth of work I can do with just my laptop and access to the Internet. My possible problems alone could take that much time. But thanks for the suggestions in case I do run out of activities.

Thanks Gena. I have been trying to pass tips like these on to my local genealogy club so we keep in touch and still do genealogy together.

I am taking this time to work on my files. I have a standardized naming convention that I use. I am going through all my files that I have in a "Research" folder to identify the people in the documents with people in my database so I can give the file a standardized name and then file it appropriately. I am also going to be going through my database and adding the FAG ID and Family Search ID to the records if they have one. I am also going through my database to see if I can get more accurate dates on those that I do not have them on if one can be found. Just to name a few.

For Pipa on March 23,2020, I don't think she meant to actually visit your grandparents, I think she meant revisit (review) the research you have on them.

A very useful list of work to be done, thank you.
Now I am making a list of family birthdays, weddings and deaths - recorded in old parish books, which I once collected in fragmentary scans.
In the next step I will be filling the gaps in the tree from this list.
And in the third stage I will try to make as far as possible a detailed timeline possible for my family.
Once I do this, I will develop a research plan for further actions.
Warm regards Gena

Pinterestis a great site to find info and pictures where your ancestors might have lived, worked, worshiped etc.

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