Sunday, January 25, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over: Week 1 - Preparing to Research & Establishing Base Practices & Guidelines

As I sat down to read the handout that Thomas MacEntee shared with us that outlined the first week The Tortoise and the Hare.  Remember the story?  It's about a self-righteous, braggart of a rabbit who ridicules the slow-moving tortoise.  Tired of the constant harassment, the tortoise challenges the hare to a race.  As soon as the start flag is dropped, the hare is off, leaving the tortoise in the dust.  After a while, the hare looks back and sees how much of a lead he has and decides that the race is in the bag.  He stops for a snack, and with a full belly, he finds a nice, shady tree and takes a nap.  Meanwhile, the tortoise lumbers along slowly.  Eventually he catches up to the hare, still sleeping.  The tortoise continues on.  When the hare wakes up, he sees the tortoise up ahead close to the finish line.  He starts running, but by the time he catches up, the tortoise has crossed the finished line, winning the race.
of the Genealogy Do-Over, an old story from my childhood popped into my mind.  This is so going to age me, but oh well.  The story, an old Aesop's Fable actually, is

The moral of the story?  Slow and steady wins the race.

See, the hare is the old me.  While I wasn't napping, I was the one racing off all willy nilly into research mode with no plan of attack.  Now I want to be the tortoise, moving slowly, diligently, with a purpose so that when I do reach the finish line I have actually accomplished something.

Now I have accomplished something.  I've completed the first step of this do-over...putting my old research aside (paper and digital).  It's time to move onto the next steps...preparing myself to research and establishing some base practices and guidelines.  As you can probably tell, I'm moving at a tortoise's pace.  If I was on pace with the rest (or most of the group), I'd be in the middle of Week 4, but I'm not going to worry or stress out about being behind everyone else.

Prepare to Research

Who knew that I'd have to prepare myself to start the research process?  I certainly didn't.  In the past, I'd pick an ancestor I wanted to work on, and away I'd go down the rabbit hole for hours at a time.  By the time I took a break, the sun was no longer shining, the skies were dark, my tummy was grumbling with hunger, and not much had been accomplished.  I'd look at all the tabs that were open on my toolbar, and none of them would have anything to do with the ancestor I had originally selected to work on.  I was off chasing bright shiny objects that had nothing to do with my ancestor.

Then there is that record I find, I hit the save button to download a copy to my computer only to find that I already saved a copy of that document.  I certainly don't remember finding that record before, but it's obvious I did as there it is...saved to my computer.  Then I look at the date that it was saved.  Lo and behold, I had located it six months ago.

I have a problem....I admit it.  I'm easily distracted.  I'm sure if I started out with a real plan...a good plan...and willpower, it would help keep me on tract.  It certainly couldn't hurt, but it's going to require some major habit changes.  So I ask myself, where do I go from here?  How do I save myself hours of wasted research time and nothing to show for it?

First, and most importantly, I will have to create a Research Plan before I do anything else.  This means that before I go to, FamilySearch, Google, etc., I have to have something typed up that outlines what I want to accomplish during each research session.  I think for my brick walls, and I have a few, I'll be using a much more detailed research plan.  If I'm just trying to prove the birth, death, marriage, etc. of a specific ancestor, I'll just use a simple research log, with the research objective at the top.  All of this will be kept in OneNote (I'll outline how I have set up OneNote to act as my research log in a separate blog post).  In fact, I plan on using OneNote as one giant research log.  I have decided that when I restart my research, I'll start with my four grandparents.

For compiling my source documents, entering claims, analyzing the data, proving my research objectives, and creating citations, I will be using Evidentia.

Establish Base Practices and Guidelines

Here are a few base practices and guidelines that I have come up with.  I'm sure as I continue with this Genealogy Do-Over, this list will be tweaked and fine-tuned many times.  But for now...

  1. Start with my direct line, and work on one ancestor at a time within each generation (i.e. finish with the grandparents before moving onto the great grandparents).
  2. Don't just collect data on my ancestors.  Get a feel for where they lived, what was going on at the time they were living.  Put them in historical context.  Help them to come alive.
  3. Do an exhaustive search...look into every nook and cranny I can think of to find information that will help me get to know my ancestors.  This includes both online and offline.
  4. Keep a research plan/log for ever ancestor.  Use a detailed research plan for my brick walls.
  5. Be consistent in the naming of my digital files and photos.  Use meta tags.
  6. Complete citations, using Evidence Explained, at the time I save the source record.
  7. No person will be added to my Family Tree Maker Database until I have proven they are my ancestor.  This will also apply when I start research my collateral ancestors.

I am finally finished with Week 1.  I wasn't fast like the hare.  I did a pretty good job at staying on course, working as my schedule and the football playoffs allowed me to work, I stayed calm, and just plodded along, much like the tortoise.  If I keep this up, and I believe that I can win in the end.

I just need to keep with my new mantra...slow and steady...slow and steady.

Now it's onto Week 2.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over - Changing the Way I Plan on Accomplishing This Task

As Week 2 of Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy began (Jan 8, 2015), I find that I'm not even finished with Week 1.  The main culprit is my work and commute schedule.  Monday through Friday, I get up at 4am and leave the house by 5am.  I work 8am-5pm, then don't get home from work until 8 or 9pm.  After eating some dinner and feeding the cats, I don't have much time to do anything before trying to get to bed at 10pm.  I do have the weekends, but half of my Saturday (not every Saturday) is for running errands and grocery shopping.

So I made the decision that I'm just going to have to work the Genealogy Do-Over at my own pace and not get stressed out about not being on the same page as everyone else.  I posted my dilemma on the Facebook page, and someone came back with a great idea.  Instead of referring to it on a week by week basis.  It will be a step by step basis.  Hence, instead of me blogging about Week 1, I'm going to refer to it now as Step 1, then each topic will be a part of that step.

I think then I can keep with it, and actually accomplish something without getting frustrated and stressed.

Now off to re-title and finish my blog post that I started last Tuesday about Part 2 of Step one.  See what I did there.  Off to a good start  now.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over - Week 1: Setting Aside Previous Research

As mentioned in my previous post, there are a lot of us taking part in Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Do-Over that started January 2, 2015.  Knowing I had to work all day on the 2nd, I decided to get started early.  So on January 1st, I started my own Genealogy Do-Over.  I was able to get an early start because Thomas posted the Schedule of Topics for this 13 week endeavor.  Much to my surprise, I got quite a bit accomplished on my day off, but before I get into that, let me tell you what the objectives are for this first week.

Credit for image:  Chinie
at Fab After Forty
The first goal is to set aside all previous research.  While I haven't been doing family research quite as along as others, I still have managed to collect quite a bit in the four years I've been researching my ancestors.

The second goal is prepare to research.  What he meant by this was to think about how I researched in the past.  Well I would just research any chance I got, after work, the wee hours of the morning, all day on the weekends. He also suggested to make a list it items that I must have available to aid me in me in researching successfully.

The third goal for the first week is to establish base practices and guidelines.  He stressed that we spend time going over how we researched in the past, what was and wasn't successful.  The come up with step-by-step practices and guidelines on how we will conduct our research from here on out.  This includes file naming practices, where/how we are going to store our documents, how we are going to retrieve and analyze the information that is gleamed from these documents, what software we are going to use to build our tree and document all the information on our ancestors.  It's a lot to think about.  This last goal is probably, at least for me, the one that is going to require the most thought.

Setting Aside Previous Research

After reading the handout for Week 1, I didn't think the first goal would be a hard one to do, nor did I think it would take very long, it was still found it a bit daunting.  I mean, putting aside, and ignoring for now, all the previous information I had found on my ancestors.  I was wondering how was I going to be able to ignore it, knowing it was in a drawer next to me.  I'm the type of person that, in certain circumstances, when someone tells me not to do something, I want to do it anyways.

I had a decision to make.  It's like when you want to go swimming in a cold lake.  You either walk slowly in to the water, shivering all the way, thinking this is crazy and head back to dry land.  Or you can take off running into the water, and just dive in...completely submerging yourself.  I decided to just dive in and completely submerge myself in doing a complete make-over of how I conduct my family research.

I took a deep breath and got down to business.  The first thing I did was to take all of my spiral notebooks and loose papers and put them in a drawer.  I figured out-of-sight-out-of-mind.  Well see how that works. One think checked off  my To Do List.

Next up was my electronic files.  I have everything in a folder labeled Genealogy. In that folder is everything related to my research.  I moved this folder into another called Genealogy Do-Over Hold File, and made a new genealogy folder called Genealogy 2015.  Within this new genealogy folder, I set up the following subfolders:  !Family Tree Maker, !Group Files, Forms, Subfolder Master File, Surnames, and Techniques and Tools.  I'll get into these folders in another post.

Now that my electronic and paper files were taken care of, next up was the two databases that I use.  I use Family Tree Maker 2014 as my database, and I'm not changing it.  I like the software and am quite comfortable with it.  I know I'm not using it to it's fullest capabilities, but as I continue on this genealogy journey, I plan on learning about all that it can do.  I'm also not deleting my original tree.  It is synced with my online tree, and it has a lot of information in it that I can use as clues when I start my research up again.  Instead, I started a brand new tree called LusbySporie Family Tree - 2015.  I started with myself, then added my parents and both sets of my grandparents.

Next up was my Evidentia database.  I kept my previous database and started a new one called Lusby_Sporie 2015.  I've had the software for a while now, but I only started to seriously use it when I attempted my own version of a Genealogy Do-Over a few months ago with no success.  So it was no hardship to start over with a fresh one since I didn't have a lot of data entered yet.

After that I cleaned out EverNote.  I started to use this as a catch-all for my genealogy and to track my research.  But no matter what I tried, it just wouldn't work the way my brain does.  So instead, I use to to collect various things that I read on genealogy that I think could be helpful in the future.  Especially when I'm at work on my tablet.  I can clip it to EverNote and follow-up on it once I'm home.  For this first step, I went though all the notebooks and notes and decided what to save and what to trash.  Got rid of the notebooks and old tagging system.  The notes I did keep, I retagged with a new system I set up.

The last thing I did was close all my OneNote Notebooks and moved them over to Genealogy Do-Over Hold File.  I really like this software and it works well with my thought processes.  I set up a new Notebook with the Master Notebook Pages that will be used, and also set up a new notebook for the first person I will research once I get all my ducks in a row.  I plan on using OneNote as my research log.

Well, that is where I am at the moment.  My next post will be about preparing to start my research.  That will get more into my folder structure and how I plan to use EverNote, OneNote, and Family Tree Maker 2014.  This will go in tandem with setting up my base practices and guidelines.

Now it's back to work, catch you all on the flip side.
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