Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Genealogy Do-Over Part 3 – Organize

Back in December, Thomas MacEntee announced the Genealogy Do-Over. Since then the big red button above has been popping up all over! There is also a related Facebook group that has generated a ton of good ideas.

I decided to join in for a couple of reasons so I will have a post outlining a goal for each of those reasons. This is my third and final "getting ready" post.

Today – it’s all about organization & consistency! 

I remember reading something – not sure when or where, but it might have been one of those cute Facebook poster thingies – something like, “Being organized is not a goal, it’s what helps you achieve your goals.”   I want this Do-Over to get me to that point of organization.  I need to have simple, straight-forward methods that make it easy for me to stay organized so that my DIS-organization doesn't get in the way of my progress.  If I had a resolution for 2015 it would something along the lines of, "This will be the year that I DON'T re-download a record that I already have (or re-copy or re-aquired.)"  Organization should be the process that is always running in the background to make my research and writing happen more smoothly.

As a start, I took the plunge yesterday and moved all of my genealogy folders into one folder titled “!Archive_Enter_at_Your_Own_Risk.”  When we get to the research part, I will be accessing this folder to pull out documents I already have but that won't be my first stop.  I don't have much in the way of paper files, but they are currently in tubs and will stay there until I get ready to move on to researching.  For me part of this Do-Over will be to re-evaluate what I DO have.  I want to do that in an orderly and focused way - one person at a time.

What I will need the most throughout this Do-Over is discipline to avoid those BSOs - Bright, Shiny Objects.  I will also need discipline to not take short-cuts and tell myself that "I'll come back later and clean that up" because looking at my hard drive and database, clearly I won't!

In terms of not taking short-cuts, I thought this was great.  I remembered that Amy Coffin, of the We Tree Genealogy Blog, had done a Do-Over of her own a number of years ago.  So, I went back and found her first blog post about that.  My favorite quote from that post has to be, “I am so serious about this that I didn't start building the tree until I could find my own birth certificate in order to make a proper source citation.” I need that sort of dedication and commitment to my own Do-Over - Amy, you are my Do-Over hero!

The bottom line is to get started moving in the right direction and then continue on that path consistently, every time I sit down to research. Not earth-shattering but important.

The Goal: Have a “readme file” for the major areas of my data input and filing (either paper or electronic.)  At minimum, one for my “Documents” folder, one for data entry into RM or Legacy starting with place naming conventions, and one for paper filing. I’m already half way through with the first.

While my system needs to be simple it's not something I do every single day so little inconsistencies can appear if I don't take time to remind myself of the standards I put in place.   As an inducement to open that file, I'm putting in things I can cut and paste - because I' lazy and I really like to cut and paste! 

Time: By the end of the Do-Over (13 weeks)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Genealogy Do-Over Part 2– Analyze

Back in December, Thomas MacEntee announced the Genealogy Do-Over. Since then the big red button above has been popping up all over! There is also a related Facebook group that has generated a ton of good ideas.

I decided to join in for a couple of reasons so I will have a post outlining a goal for each of those reasons.

Today – it’s all about analyzing!

Many people who are participating in the Genealogy Do-Over mention the regret of not documenting where they found information, especially back when they were getting started. When I look back at my very first visit to a courthouse - my first real research - I have very nicely written on each page where I got the information, book, volume, page.  I think I did a pretty good job because there is enough information there to allow me to craft a source citation.

My problem is not so much with that very early research, but with what I do (or don't do) once I have information. I am so thrilled with finding things that I don't stop, take a deep breath, and analyze what the information is telling me.  I don't spend time correlating things.  Pieces of information tend to live in isolation in my mind because I'm rushing on down the trail to the next piece of information.

Here are two posts pointing out rather embarrassing oversights on my part.  The first is a Tombstone Tuesday post which shows how I discovered that my great-great-grandmother did NOT die in Colorado.  The second post is a record of my discovery of information contained in a divorce file - a file that I had in my possession.  The piece of information was a huge break though in tracing a line I felt was a dead-end.  This was information I had all along but had overlooked because, at the time, I was looking for something else in that file.

I need to slow down as one of Thomas's recent posts suggest.  If I only have people back through my grandparent's generation when we get to the end of week 13, I'm OK with that.  I want to take time - not just to do this correctly, but to really THINK about what I have and what it means.

This is a real issue for me. When I first received the divorce file it enabled me to finally find my great-grandmother in the 1910 census.  I was then able to track her through 1920 and 1930 with different husbands in each.  That lead me to other marriage and divorce records.  But I never really read that first file and thought about EVERYTHING it was telling me.  I just pulled out a fact or two that I needed and I was off to the races. 

The Goal: Spend time as I add people to my new database to truly analyze the data. "Analyze" has many synonyms including:examine, study, investigate, scrutinize, evaluate, consider, question, and explore.  I need to think about all of those as I analyze my data.

This also includes understanding the time period and place these people occupied.  I need to do more reading.  It's great that Wayne County, Ohio birth records are online, but all the pages I download will not tell me as much as reading "Sonnenberg, a Haven and a Heritage", a history of the early settlement of the area in Wayne County where my ancestors lived. 

Time: Ongoing, but since I've decided that screen time right before I sleep is not good, I'll commit to devoting the last 30 minutes of my day to genealogy reading.