Genealogy Do-Over Week 1 Take Away

… This is the stepping-off point for revitalized research!

At the start of Genealogy Do-Over Week 1, I came up with my top five base practices for family research. I decided to further develop my second research practice:

I will develop a workflow that works for me, and follow it. I will update it when I find it’s not working. (This will likely include trial and error attempts.) It will include a research plan, sharing with others and efficiently working with documents — from collection, to analysis and data entry to producing reports.

Remember these?
Remember these?

Throughout the week, I evaluated my former research habits and came up with some things that didn’t work, some that did and others that worked, but could work much better.

I studied charts and research logs and best practices others had shared.

Here’s what I came up with:

  • I’m a bit ADD. I’m good at finding things, but not so great at processing them. I need to allow myself the occasional freedom of spontaneous research, but follow-up with disciplined tracking and data entry.
  • I had no research plan. Sure, I started looking for a certain thing. But then, I followed every BSO that came along. Oh, the stories I could tell about the rabbit holes I’ve been down. Most didn’t result in good research, however. So, I need a plan. An overall plan, and project plans, to direct my research.
  • I had no finished package. I had been organizing digital material and throwing hard copies into boxes to sort out later. No more. My workflow will include printed reports that I can share with family, who will enjoy it today. I was inspired by several posts on The Organized Genealogist Facebook page.
  • I have very few family photos. I’ve been trying for several years to get access to them, but relatives across the country have them. Correcting this may require a cross-country trip.
  • My research and to-do logs kind of work, when I remember to enter data into them. Post do-over, this won’t be the case. I’m looking forward to developing research, to-do and tracking logs that work with my unique workflow and get updated consistently.
  • Legacy Family Tree worked for me. I came to love its integral notes, robust Evidence Explained compatible source templates and scalable fonts and dialog boxes. This sounds like a good thing, right? Not so much. I switched from Windows to a MAC in January 2015. I’ve yet to find a comparable program for MACs.

    Sneak peek at new digital file tree
    Sneak peek at new digital file tree
  • My census naming system worked. Unfortunately, I had no naming system for other files. This is about to change.
  • I was anal about documenting sources, but not properly recording the data. This means I have scribbled notes written sideways across pages that reference sources and analyze data. No more. My new base practices require that I cite sources according to Evidence Explained, and that I analyze data according to the Genealogical Proof Standard.

Grandma Smith (nee Van Lue) walked along an Indiana ditch with me, pointing out edible wild berries and sassafras leaves. She bent and pulled the weeds away from the sassafras plant and gently dug it from the ground, showing me its reddish bark. Her mother was part Native American, she told me.

Grandma's sassafras roots
Grandma’s sassafras roots

She had taught her about plants to use for healing and to be a caretaker of the environment — before environmentalism was a thing.

This grandma’s genes, mingled with those of countless other ancestors make me who I am today. I’m participating in Genealogy Do-Over  to honor them, and to help tell their stories to generations to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Binders and folders and papers — oh my!

Genealogy Do-Over, Week 1 Cycle 3

Setting Previous Research Aside

I’ve had a month or so to come to terms with the fact that my research is a mess, and I need a plan and a do-over. And, I’m used to setting research aside. In fact, that’s contributed to two of my data losses. Years ago I set my research aside to move across the country, without backing up my database. I lost all my digital files, but I had kept my hard copies. Now, I’m a full-time student and I work, so when the semester gets hot ‘n’ heavy, I pack my genie goodies into boxes and hide them. Yes, I hide them, so I’m not tempted to look inside and do genealogy instead of homework.

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No, this isn’t my ONLY box! 😉

Before I set aside my paper files, I’m going to give them a quick once over to clump them according to record type and family. This will help me formulate a research plan that fits my research style and records on hand.

I don’t plan to toss these records, but I do plan to carefully reintegrate what is usable into my NEW system, once it’s fully in place.

Today, I set aside my digital files. It was easy. They are on my old Windows laptop and I’m now working on an iMac.

I’m hanging onto one thing, though — a special project I recently started that involves separating tangled roots in a family branch. This project will be my testing ground for tracking and workflow, however I won’t be entering any data into my database during the cycle.

Preparing to Research

For me, this includes everything that I will go through during our genealogy do-over. I will be better prepared because as I participate in the do-over, I will identify what I’ve been doing that doesn’t work, and STOP it!

I will be armed with the latest version of “Evidence Explained” by Elizabeth Shown Mills, and I will stick to my plan but not keep it set in stone. When I find something’s not working, I will find a better way to get the job done.

Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines: Five little words that carry loads of weight.

This is pivotal to the success of my do-over. It may take more than a week, heck, it may take longer than the whole cycle to complete. But, by the end of the cycle, I hope to be better acquainted with my options and to have a strong plan in place that I can tweak as I go.

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What’s inside Pandora’s box?

Here are my top five base practices:

  • Research from a point of “I don’t know.” (I’m borrowing one of Thomas MacEntee’s Golden Rules of Genealogy). I’m not out to prove this or that, but to find out who, what, when, where, why and how.
  • I will develop a workflow that works for me, and follow it. I will update it when I find it’s not working. (This will likely include trial and error attempts). It will include a research plan, sharing with others and efficiently working with documents — from collection, to analysis to data entry and producing reports.
  • I will implement regular back-ups in multiple formats.
  • I will create a tracking system that prevents double work, lets me find documents when I need them and fits into my workflow. It will include documenting where I search, what I find, accurate source information and a plan for future work. It must work with my database and other software I use and has to be efficient.
  • I will work toward the Genealogical Proof Standard and carefully analyze data before making conclusions. I will pursue a blend of people focused and evidence based genealogy, with a strong emphasis on evidence, source citations and evaluation.

No big deal, right? Well, not so much. Several of these are within my reach for day-to-day research. However developing a workflow and tracking system that efficiently integrates with my database and other programs will be a challenge and might include some do-overs.