06 October 2015

Rebooting my Genealogy Do-Over

Thomas McEntee has just started his fourth cycle of his Genealogy Do-Over Program. Each cycle lasts just 13 weeks.

I was so psyched when I first heard of his project late December 2014. I thought, "This is just what I need to get my personal genealogy project into shape! I can go through my research and my mom's research and make it into one coherent project." Well, life and health interfered.

I had surgery in March. Then after I was finally feeling healed from that I fell and hurt my ribs. Plus I started on Cymbalta for my Fibromyalgia. Now that med may work great for some, but for me it caused major depression like I had never experienced in my life!

Ribs are healed. I am off the Cymbalta and my moods are finally back to normal. So here I am ready to get back into the swing of things.

I decided since Thomas is just starting another cycle I will start back at Week One too. This will allow me to refresh my memory about what I am doing and how I want to proceed. Week One's topics/assignments are:
1) Setting Previous Research Aside,
2) Preparing to Research, and
3) Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines

Well, I had set aside my research in January, so that was easy.

Preparing to Research?!?! Aren't you supposed to just decide to open Ancestry and randomly search? I am just joking, I think. But all too often that is what I have done. I have some time, my mind wanders to the subject of my family history and I open up my tree in Family Tree Maker and log into Ancestry.com.

In the discussion of topic 2 "Preparing to Research" Thomas mentioned having a "Warm Up Routine" and that got me to thinking. I know an athlete should warm up his muscles in preparation of working out. I know a singer warms up their vocal cords before singing (or they should). What do I, as a genealogist, need to do to be "warmed up" or prepared to research?

From thinking about that came this first document, "Linda's Warm-Up Exercises." Use my list as a starting place for you to think about what you want to have on your list.

The final topic for Week One is about establishing Base Practices and Guidelines. I had written my "Base Practices and Guidelines," back in January so I decided to just review what I had already written.

1. Track ALL work! including dead ends, negative results and non-productive searches. (If non-productive make a notation of why it was non-productive: tired? interrupted? bad copy you couldn't read? Also make a record of what search terms you used -- later on you can go back and see that you didn't try wildcards, or a certain wildcard pattern, or you didn't swap the surname and given name.)
2. Diligence and integrity are essential in doing genealogy research.
3. Always use proper source citation when entering information, if it doesn't have a source it doesn't belong in the database!
4. Take the time to do a careful and thorough search, whether in a database or on a document. Don't rush you may miss something important. If it takes an hour to carefully look at 1 document, then that is what it takes, there will always be another day to look at other documents.
5. Don't get sidetracked by shiny objects. Write them down to look at later, stick with your research plan for that day.
6. Stop working on genealogy by 11 pm so you can get to bed at a halfway reasonable hour.

For the most part I think what I had was pretty solid, but that maybe it needed just one more item.

7. Develop a work flow chart to make sure you don't skip steps when doing research and reviewing documents.

So that is where this document came from. It is a visual flow chart of the process I want to go through when doing my research. Again use this as a starting point for you to think about what steps you need to be including in research habits.

Just read a comment in the Do-Over Facebook Group about a "Cool Down" Routine for what they will do at the end of each research session. I will have to think on that idea and come up with something for that too I think.


  1. I am confused as to what a BSO exactly is. Is an example of a BSO a name or date that you come across and cannot cite? Do you write that down in your log and then pass it up?

  2. A Bright Shiny Object is something that distracts us from what we are working on, some people call it a rabbit hole. My goal is to have a notebook for those bright shiny object finds and then make it a planned research item for a different time.

    1. For example: I am research my grandfather, specifically anything related to his military service and in the search results something pops up for his brother's military service I would make note of how the search results lists his brother's name and what record group it is into my "BSO" notebook, then continue looking for my grandfather's military records. This allows me to stay on track research my grandfather, but allows me to easily find that record when I am working on my great uncle.