Well this has been all about teaching an old dog new tricks. My learning curve has been very steep this month. But finally, the struggle to tweak my research habits has shown some success. My old modus operandi for genealogy research was to pick a name or family from my family tree to research. I would use Google, Ancestry, Family Search and any other records place I could find. I usually kept track of the information I found but it was on sticky notes, spiral notebooks or just random pieces of paper. I have no idea how many times I would do a new search and then realize that months or years ago, I had already found the same information. It’s no wonder I had so many brick walls in my tree. All that information on paper and in digital files had no sources listed. I had no idea (without a lot of work) where I got each piece of data. That has been the one big change in this do-over adventure.
To do this right I started with the work process that I developed in week 2.
- Family Group Sheet
- To-Do List
- Research Log
- Family Tree Entry
In week 2, I filled Family Group Sheets for myself and my parents. From these sheets, I input my goals into the research log. The log I am using is an Excel spreadsheet developed by Thomas MacEntee the leader of this Genealogy Do-Over. This spreadsheet has tabs for a to-do list, research log and search attempts log. The great thing about this log is tweaking it for your own ease of use.
I knew that I needed to set up a process to prevent doing the same searches over and over. In order to get used to this way of working, I started with the goal of proving my date of birth and marriage. Using my birth certificate and marriage license, I input the information in the research log. This gave me some insights into what changes I could make to the spreadsheet to streamline the process.
I also learned to thoroughly read all documents. I have looked at my birth certificate many times but I had missed some information on it. An address that I always assumed was the hospital’s address was, in fact, my mother’s address at the time I was born. I grew up in the town I was born in but I never knew my parents had lived at that particular address. Of course, it wasn't a bombshell or anything but it did show the importance of reading all details without making assumptions.
Entering my parent’s information took longer simply because there were more records. This is where I used Family Search and Ancestry to search for any records on them. These searches were important to learning the next step of Tracking Searches.
Learning to track all your searches is hard to get used to but it can be invaluable. We all know our successful searches because we have new data to show for it. The unsuccessful searches are just as important. If a database is searched and it doesn't yield any results, the search and its parameters should be noted in the search results worksheet. It can be easy to do the same searches over and over without realizing the work is being duplicated.
I have found that keeping track of my searches and citing all sources has improved my productivity. No more wasted time trying to find things I already knew. No more chasing bright shiny objects with nothing gained. I feel like I can focus and see over those brick walls a bit easier now.