Week 1 of My Genealogy Do-Over

Here it is! Week 1 of my Do-over and though I haven’t spent a lot of time on it I’ve ruminated on the items that Thomas has assigned to this week.  They are:

  1. Setting Previous Research Aside
  2. Preparing to Research
  3. Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines

While I have been contemplating this process there are a ton of excellent blog posts out there describing the processes that they will be using.  You can read for yourself over at Bag The Web: Genealogy Do-Over. As a result of this I am fighting the feeling of being overwhelmed.  I keep reminding myself that I can make it as difficult or easy as I want… it’s all up to me.  So with that being said, I’m going forward with the following thoughts on the different tasks for this week.

#1- Setting Previous Research Aside
One of many pages of Beulah's handwritten notes
One of many pages of Beulah’s handwritten notes
Great Aunt Beulah Morse Barnett
Great Aunt Beulah Morse Barnett

I have moved all of my electronic files related to my research over to a folder named OLD RESEARCH.  All my handwritten notes to myself, old pedigrees, and general detritus that I have gathered over the years from my dear Great Aunt Beulah will be going in a storage bin that will be put aside.  Sorry Beulah, but you weren’t great about citing your sources and since there are no Vital records or other documents that I can trust… you’re going into cold storage for a while.  Yes, that’s right.  Even these great handwritten notes that provided many clues when I first got started.  The butcher paper with your handwritten notes and the many generations that you’d researched are set aside too.  I’m sorry Beulah.

I’m still debating on what to do with my Grandma Shirley‘s biography though.  It has so many great clues that I’ve used over the years that I hate to work without it.  Perhaps I need to break it apart into bits based on what she would have knowledge of and what would be secondary?  Hmmm. Then there are the documents that I gained through various research trips to Michigan City, La Porte, and South Bend, Indiana.  These were all expensive to get (in terms of time and travel) and though I did not cite them well when I received them– they will be cited well from now on.  These items will each need a citation created for them before I gather any information from them on this round.  I also have a lot of great information that I gathered on my trip to Maine through the State Archives and the local repositories in Friendship.  These too need citations and then when I get to that point in my research see if they still apply to my folks.  I sure hope so!  It’s pretty far back generation wise so hard to know for sure at this point.  I also plan to go through all the audio interviews (and paper copies too) to transcribe them and make them more usable.  These will be saved as they are quite literally the hardest research I’ve done! I will also be saving emails that were sent by my distant relatives with their family information and answers to my interview questions.  Those are quite detailed and fill in some stories that I didn’t know before.

#2- Preparing to Research

I’m reading a lot of blog posts by others.  I’m thinking about what my goals for this new endeavor and developing lots of ideas for better ways to research. I have downloaded a number of templates and spreadsheets for my future use and trying to determine what seems easy to incorporate and use. I am planning to read the book “Mastering Genealogical Proof” by Thomas Jones before I really kick off my research.

#3- Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines

In the past I have been a gatherer of information and spent very little time studying each item.  One of the biggest things I’m going to start doing is following J. Mark Lowe‘s “MULL AND PONDER” advice.  I’m going to take my time in the coming years and consider the full impact of each document.  After all, it’s not like those ancestors that came before me are going anywhere!  They are safely in the ground and in history.  It’s just a matter of time to reach individual’s story.

From here on out I will be going paperless.  I plan to spend some time scanning each document that I already have on hand and all future research trips and documents handled will be scanned.  I will have my folders set up by Surnames and I’m going to adopt the format that Diana Ritchie has shared with our group.  Each document file will be named with the person’s name, year of birth, year of death, year of the document, and the document type.  The format will be “Last_First_bxxxxdyyyyYYYY_Census”.  For my grandmother’s marriage record it would be “Krueger_Shirley_b1918d2008_MarriageCert.”

There are a couple things that I’m going to put in place in the coming weeks.  For example, when I am doing any kind of internet search I will be using a spreadsheet to document my efforts.  I also plan to do a better job of taking each “find” and creating a citation and entering it into RootsMagic from there.  I have also been guilty of forgetting which websites that I have memberships to and the free databases that I should check along the way.  I think a simple header on the internet research spreadsheet will be an easy way to remind myself of all the resources at my fingertips.  Then I can just click on the link and try those out.

When researching at a library or archive I am going to follow these procedures:

  1. Before going to the location I will decide what my research focus will be and create a research plan for the task at hand.
  2. I will consult the library catalog (if applicable) and determine items that I will consult as part of the research plan.
  3. I will print out my research plan and also gather my research trip supplies based on the rules of that particular location. I will plan ahead by packing a snack and or lunch depending on the amount of time I plan to spend at the location.
  4. At the location: Take it one research item at a time.  Read through the research plan and look at each item keeping the relevant data in mind.
  5. Create a citation for the positive or negative findings for the item.
  6. Use Evernote to take a photo with my Tablet of the cover, each inset page, the introduction, the pertinent pages within, and the entire index. This document will be saved with the citation and given a title with the name of the person of interest.  Tags will include the year of the record or find, and also what the event is that it relates to.
  7. STOP.  MULL and PONDER this find.
  8. Analyze the find and how it relates to what I already know and determine if there are any discrepancies and if this is truly MY PERSON.
  9. At the bottom of the Evernote document write a short narrative on what this MEANS and any questions that arise as a result.
  10. Take a deep breath and enter the finding into RootsMagic for that particular person.
  11. Look at the research plan again and assess if this find means any adjustments to the known information.  Will it mean any changes to the research plan or can we proceed with the next item.
  12. Repeat with the next item on the plan as appropriate.

I think with this defined list I will do a much better job of processing my work along the way and not going and scanning a million things and not filing anything appropriately. Once I return from the research trip I will take each Evernote document and save as a PDF and use the naming system for my electronic files.  Then I will link it to the RootsMagic file.

So there you have it.  A much more deliberate method and should be a significant improvement on my past hunting and gathering practices. If you have any other recommendations I would appreciate the feedback!




One thought on “Week 1 of My Genealogy Do-Over

  1. Hi Jen,
    Your plan looks like it is thoughtfully laid out. I can’t think of anything I would change or add. In fact, I may steal some of your ideas for organization and methodical research.
    Good job,


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