Sunday, January 3, 2016

Genealogy Do-Over 2016 - Month 1

If at first you don't succeed
Try, try again

I can't believe that I haven't posted in this blog since April 5th, 2015.  Where does the time go?  It seems like the older I get, the faster the days and months go by.  The last post I made was about the starting the second cycle of Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Do-Over, which, according to Thomas, is "a success-driven program created to improve your genealogy skills.  Learn the latest technologies, tools, methodologies and more so you can share genealogy research with your family."  In 2015, the Do-Over was a 13 week course.  Starting in 2016, the Genealogy Do-Over is now a year long course, with the topics broken out monthly.

In Cycle 1 of 2015, I managed to get up to Week 4.  Then in Cycle 2 of 2015, I'm not even sure how far I got,  I don't think I got much past Week 1.  The reason for this, well the initial work plan I set up in Week 1 didn't quite work the way I hoped it would when I set it up.  So I made some tweaks, and started again.  Again, I found some more tweaks were needed to my system. I figured it was best, at least for me, was to stop what I was doing research-wise, and fix something that wasn't working at the time I discovered it.  Then I'd go back to my research to see if it worked with the way that my brain works.  Many months later, I think I finally have it working the way I want I want it to.  Now I am ready to jump in and start my Genealogy Do-Over once again.

With the year, the year-long Genealogy Do-Over started on January 1, 2016.  The very first thing I did was purchase the Workbook that Thomas created.  I bought the PDF version, and have it saved to my computer.  The topics are broken out over the 12 months of 2016.  With participating in the Do-Over last year, I have already worked though some of the earlier topics.  My plan is ti still address each month's topic(s),  Since we are at the beginning of January, I start with Month 1.

The topics for Month 1 are (1) Setting Previous Research Aside, and (2) Preparing to Research.  I'll address each topic separately.

Setting Previous Research Aside

There isn't much for me to do with regards to this topic because all of my previous research had been set aside when I originally started the Do-Over in 2015.  I didn't have much in the way in paper files because I didn't start my genealogical journey until 2010.  When I did start back then, I decided to keep all my research digitally.  I do have a few original vital records in paper format.  They are scanned and on my computer, and the paper copies are put away in a folder.  All of my old electronic files were "put away" in a hold file on my computer, and I pull them out as I need them.  They are saved in my new file system, and the old electronic file is then deleted.

Preparing to Research

When I first saw this topic, I have to admit that I thought it was a bit strange.  Who knew that you had to do "prep-work" before you started researching.  When I first started researching my ancestors, I just dove in and started inputting names into with no rhyme or reason and saved any results that I found.  I didn't really analyze the information on the records that I found.  I assumed it was correct.  It took the information I found on all the family trees that are out there on the internet the same way.  Boy, have I come a long way since those early days.

Before I get to my general plans for research, I wanted to share some of the tools and software that I am currently using:  Evidentia, Microsoft OneNote, and Family Tree Maker.


This software was created and developed by Ed Thompson.  Evidentia is a database, but not person-centric like Family Tree Maker, RootsMagic, and Legacy is.  Evidentia is source-centric, and it helps you analyze the evidence you find on your ancestors.  Evidential is used to compile, evaluate, and analyze evidence.  This software allows you to look at each record you collect on a specific ancestor individually and in relation to the other records collection, and it also helps you reach a sound conclusion.  You can use this software for each and every person that you are research, or you can use it only for those ancestors who are your brick walls.

When I first got the software, I was planning on only using it for my brick-wall ancestors, which I have quite a few of.  When I started the genealogy do-over last year, I decided that I was going to use it for each and every ancestor in my tree.  While it's a daunting task, I think it's well worth it for me, mainly because of the citations I can create, which will then be copied over my genealogy database.  In future posts, I'll share screenshots of how I am using Evidentia in my research.

Microsoft OneNote

I'll be using this nifty piece of software in place of Evernote.  This where where I kept getting help up in my previous attempts in completing the Do-Over last year.  I wanted my set-up working like a well-oiled machine because this was the last stop before any information/records would be put into my genealogy software.

While I like Evernote quite a bit, it just didn't quite work like my brain works and I couldn't set up my notebooks quite like I wanted to.  OneNote does.  I've gone through many set-ups for my individual notebooks...alot of trial and error to see what worked and what didn't.  Then I came across Erin Klein's blog, My Family History Files, and she showed how she used OneNote for her genealogy research.  After reading her posts, I found this was exactly how I wanted to and was trying to set up my notebooks.  She has two different notebooks for two different ways of using OneNote for genealogical research - (1) Surname Notebook - Sources Sorted by Record Type, and (2) Surname Notebook - Sources Sorted in Chronological Order.  I opted to use the first one as my records are sorted by record type in the individual surname file folders.  In future posts, I'll share screenshots of how I'm using OneNote in my research.

Family Tree Maker

Family Tree Maker (FTM) is the first and only genealogical database software that I use, and I love the software.  When I first started research, I only had a tree on  Then I purchased FTM 2012 and then 2014 when it was released.  I know about Ancestry's decision to stop supporting this software at the end of 2016, but I'll keep using it until it doesn't work on my computer any longer.

While FTM will continue to my where I maintain my tree, I  also plan to experiment with a free version of Legacy.  That way, when and if FTM stops working, I'll have another current, up-to-date tree with sources and citations.

I also have memberships to MyHeritage and Find My Past.  I'm keeping my tree on these sites also.  My Heritage has a free genealogy database that can be downloaded to your computer that also syncs to their site.  Find My Past is online only.

No ancestor or record is added to FTM until they have been fulled vetted by the steps I take in Evidentia and OneNote.  This way, I know that if a person is in FTM it is because I have proved to the best of my ability that they are an ancestor of mine.

In future posts, I'll share screenshots of how I'm using FTM in my research.

Electronic Filing Structure

This topic could most certainly be included as a subtopic under Preparing to Research, but I think it's an important enough topic to be on its own.  How I file my electronic records on my computer has gone through many iterations.  I believe in making it as easy as possible to find records on my computer, and that when I look at a file in the directory, that I know exactly what file it is that I'm opening.  That is why I tend to be very exact in naming my files.  Here are some screenshots on how my files are set up on my computer.

This first screenshot is of the main screen when I have Windows Explorer open and click on my F: drive, which is my main data drive that I use.  All of my genealogy files are set up in the Genealogy 2016 folder.  I have also set up a library called Genealogy 2016.  This library is an exact copy of my Genealogy 2016 folder on my F: drive.  The library is the easier of the two to get to.  Anything that I save to the library is also saved to the F: drive and vice versa.

Click to view full-size image
When I click on Genealogy 2016, these are the files that I have made to organize my work.  Of course, the most important folder is my Surname folder, hence the reason why it is at the top.  I won't go into an indepth reasoning for the folders I set up, but if you are curious and what to ask, just leave me a comment and I'll answer.

Click to view full-size image
Below is a screenshot of my Surname Folder.  I have each surname color-coded as follows:  Blue -My Dad's Paternal Line; Green - My Dad's Maternal Line; Red - My Mom's Paternal Line; and Yellow - My Mom's Maternal line.  The reason I have the numbers in parentheses is so that all of each color stays together.  Otherwise, they would just sort alphabetically.  This way, all the blues, greens, reds and yellows stay together, and they also sort alphabetically.  I find this the easiest way to organize these folds, and the one that makes the most sense to me.

Click to view full-size image
Here is a screenshot of my Tanton Surname Directory.  When sorting, Microsoft sorts alphabetically, so I set the these files up to sort by generation.  So 01 is for my great grandfather, 02 is my 2x great grandfather, and 03 is my 3x great grandfather.  If I had a grandfather on this line, he would have been 00.  My maternal grandmother is from this line, so her records up to her marriage can be found in her father's (Jarvis Pope Tanton) file.  Even though this is the Tanton Surname Folder, I opted to still use the surname first in naming each ancestor as well as using their birth and death years in parentheses.  This helps for the same names being used generation after generation.

Click to view full-size image
When I first started keeping all my files electronically, I wasn't quite this detailed in my file structure.  After I developed the subfolders, I found it much easier to find the records that I have saved to my computer.  I have a master Subfolder Directory that I use each time I start a new surname, I immediately copy the below file folders over to that surname.  As I find I need it, I add folders to this Subfolder Directory.

Click to view full-size image

Last but not least is how I name my files/records that I save.  My naming structure is as follows:

Surname_FNameMName_Date/Year of Record_Record Description

Here are a couple of examples based on the above structure.




So there you have it.  My new beginning for tracing my roots in 2016.

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