Every once in a while, I go back and look at some of the research I did when I was younger. And I wonder. How did I come to that conclusion? Did I come to a conclusion at all, or was I just gathering random bits of information that matched other random bits of information I’d found or heard earlier? What was I thinking? And then I move on to something else.
Now that I’m a bit older and trying to be more thorough in my research, I wonder what of my previous findings is incorrect. Have I been spending years researching someone else’s family (you’re welcome), or am I on the right track with my own family tree?
And I can’t count the number of times I’ve looked through a set of records only to think that I’ve seen them before.
I’m not alone. Thomas McEntee is starting a genealogy do-over, and I (along with several hundred fellow genealogists) am joining him. What’s a do-over, you ask? It’s exactly what it sounds like–I’m setting everything aside, and starting over.
But…but…WHY? Because I want to be a better genealogist. I started as a teenager eager and excited. I loved adding branches and information to my family tree. I still do. I’m still that teenager in an older and bigger body, and I still get excited when I find a new bit of information. As a result, I have a lot of good research alongside a lot of, shall we say, “eager” research. Trying to separate the two has become almost impossible. Time for a do-over!
Here’s what I’m hoping to get out of it:
- I need more discipline. I tend to research whatever happens to be on my mind at the moment. Somewhere along the way I get distracted by a record or thought (SQUIRREL!), and I end up down a completely different path. It’s all very random. Time to start developing research plans to stay focused on a goal, and using research logs to document my search.
- I need more consistency. Over the years, my style for documenting sources has “evolved”…or not. It’s definitely changed. And then there are all the printed microfilm images with no source information on them at all. Time to develop a consistent and useful system for documenting sources and citations.
- I need more organization. I’m pretty happy with how my digital files are organized on my computer. But I have a lot of pictures, letters, printed histories, and other physical documents that are totally unorganized. Much of it is inherited, and I still haven’t looked through it all. Each time I start, I get part-way through, then put it all back in the box for a later time. Time to find a system to organize these artifacts so I can move them from the disorganized box they’re in, and preserve them in a way that they can be easily found when needed.
- I need more backup. My digital files are pretty well organized on my computer, but I am woefully neglectful at backing up my files to an external drive or an online storage service. Time to research my options, find out from others what they do to backup their files, and get serious about making sure I don’t ever lose my research.
- I need to blog more. In addition to research logs, blogging is a great way to record my thought processes during research. Blogging could also be a great way to spark new ideas when writing about information I’ve found. And, above all, it’s about sharing my research with friends, family, and colleagues. Time to start scheduling blog time into my research.
It’s going to be hard to put aside everything and start over. It will be a huge task. But it will be so worth it! I may find that my research is solid, and the tree I’ve been researching is actually my family. But developing a methodology for HOW I do my research is really my ultimate goal.