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.

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