Saturday, February 23, 2013

Genealogy 'resolutions' for 2013... and beyond!

Since the advent of the internet, the world of genealogy has changed incredibly. Twenty years ago, genealogy consisted of writing slews of letters and visiting courthouses, cemeteries, relatives, and archives in person. While tedious at times, these “old school” research techniques did help teach genealogists valuable lessons in documentation and patience.  
Thanks to mega-sites such as, people with an interest in family history can easily become “weekend warrior genealogists”… and with three clicks of their computer mouse, have a family history going back hundreds of years. While certainly handy, these technology advancements have allowed people to claim false lineage and further share incorrect information… and not only that, but miss out on actually learning about their families.
I’m the first person to use email and jump on when I am on a quest for someone. But during this past year, I was noticing that the bulk of my genealogy research consisted of searching the same old internet databases and mega-sites. And while I was finding tons of data, I was missing out on some very important aspects of genealogy…. One of the most important (if not the most important) is documentation. Sadly, when it comes to documentation, I’m as guilty as the next person! I always think I’ll “remember” or “just know” where that piece of data came from… but of course I don’t. It would be impossible… I’ve been actively researching for two decades and have many lines that I’ve researched extensively at various points over the years. So among my genealogy New Year’s Resolutions, was to start documenting things better! Winter (especially in Minnesota) is a perfect time to overhaul genealogy! And the New Year is a perfect time to implement some 'resolutions'! 
So my personal genealogy ‘resolutions’ consist of: 
1. Documentation  
2. Reorganization
3. Re-examine dead ends 
4. Connections with 'cousins' 
5. Genealogy ‘fun’
There are countless documentation aids out there! And I have been actively searching for the best ones. I need something handy to use and that won’t add to the paper clutter I’m desperately trying to limit. Ultimately, I'd like to be organized enough that I can keep better track of my online research finds.  There are countless "how to document" websites out there... but I haven't really stumbled across anything that I found to be a surefire easy thing for me?!  The great Emily Croom does have an ebook published a few years ago, that it a nice starting point for anyone who is at the very early stages of documenting.
I'd suggest having a look for ideas.... And of course would love to hear any feedback from other regarding their own documentation strengths (or weaknesses)
Mass reorganization of my personal genealogy archive is long overdue. I’ve spent the last two years (ok…5 years!) collecting data but not actually filing it appropriately or making it easily accessible when I need it. My family binders are outdated and in great need of rejuvenation. The bookcase of 20+ binders does look a little daunting… especially since Winter is waning…. I think every genealogist has his or her own organization system, and not every system works for every individual researcher. 
Like many unorganized people, I love to read about systems to get organized and see how other people manage the never ending flow of "stuff" genealogists obtain.
'Organizing Your Family History Search," by the genealogist genius- Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, is a great resource for getting organized! But then those ideas don't work for everyone!
Family Tree Magazine (another great genie resource, but clutter addition when you hoard them) has a whole bunch of free forms you can download....
Check them out! Use them!  I, of course, haven't yet... but I'm still afraid the addition of more "organization" forms will add to the clutter of my study that is encroaching on the living room...
How do you organize your genealogy archive? I collect tips, like paper... so share with me!
Re-examination of brick walls:
Like all genealogists, I have my share of brick walls. However it’s been a really really long time since I sat down and looked at these dead ends with fresh eyes and have created a timeline with what I know and what I’ve tried, et al. Of course.... to tackle brick walls effectively, one must get organized! (ugh... that cursed 'O' word again)
I can just feel that with a little effort, I could have a number of brick walls come crashing down in 2013.
Connections with ‘cousins’ (& other relatives)
I’m fortunate to come from a large family! And it is still full of Cousins, Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, and all the rest of the nuts found on a large family tree. And I have reminded myself that it is important to spend time with and cultivate relationships with living breathing members of my family tree!
Not only are these familial relationships socially healthy they are also a benefit to genealogy research, especially when any of the ‘relatives’ share an interest! So call up Aunt Agnes or Cousin Flo and have a cup of coffee and a chat... It's important to enjoy family while they are still around besides.... Who knows what you might find out!
Other ‘genie’ Fun-
Besides stepping up my genealogy game, getting organized, and seeing some living family members in person, I’d also like to partake in some other “fun” related to genealogy. The continuing education aspect of genealogy is exciting for me! I’d love to take in some workshops and maybe get pointers for some of the ambitions I’ve laid out above! I’m going to have to do some further research to find out about said ‘workshops’ both ones I can visit in person and webinars that I can partake in. Perhaps a kind reader has some suggestions. Other ‘fun’ things that could interest me include- plan a family reunion (long overdue, and not really so much fun), creating small abridged genealogies to share with family, genealogy related projects (like this blog) and travel (cemeteries, archives, museums, libraries, family members), among many others. 
So here are my 5 point resolution plans for 2013… and we are already 2 months into the year… and while I haven’t made leaps and bounds in any of them…. I am well on my way!
What are your 2013 goals? Do you have an action plan to obtain any of them? And what do you think of mine? I’d love any feedback and suggestions & research aids in getting me there quicker!

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