Putting the Do-Over on Hold

Well dear readers, life has gotten in the way of my do-over and I find myself with a completely self-imposed deadline which borders on the “qualifying me for admission to the insane asylum.”  Hence I am putting my do-over on hold.

Fortunately for me, Thomas is starting Round Two in the beginning of April and that is after the deadline!  So I will be beginning again.  Way ahead of the first attempt but with plenty left to do for most of the weeks we have already covered.

Until then, I am going to be transcribing my fingers off.   You see, I have about 26 hours of audio recordings of me interviewing my Grandmother on my computer that need to be transcribed.  She will be 95 very soon *knock wood* and I really do need to get back to the transcriptions so she can review and edit them.  Also, I’ll be getting to see her for her birthday and yes, I absolutely intend to get some more interviewing done.

So it will be a bit before I come up for air.  Until then, Happy Hunting!

Genealogy Do-Over Week 5

Building a Research Toolbox
Citing Sources

The hurrier I go, the behinder I get. ~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Well that sums up MY week. How about yours?

The interviews with my aunts went really well and I got some great information, some of which is brand new to me! Of course, now I have a lot of transcription work to do and I need to create research to-do lists based off the interviews.

I became an admin of a new Facebook group called “Killer Kin” with four other ladies who have me in stitches every day. The gallows humor is strong within the Admin team! Killer Kin is a place for people research murders and other heinous crimes in their family tree. Whether your Kin did the murdering or was murdered, or even if you just enjoy researching true crime and would like to help others look into their crime stories, this is the place for you. Come on over!

But onto the Do-Over.

Task 1: Building a Research Toolbox.

To quote myself (this was posted in the FB Do-Over group)
“Since Friday I have been thinking of a webinar I attended back in Jan 2014 on Building a Research Toolbox. It was a fantastic webinar, and the gentleman posted a link to his blog and I wanted to repost it as a resource. I just pulled up my notes from the webinar and the speaker was Thomas MacEntee! This time I WILL finish building my toolbox. I’d started immediately a year ago but got distracted by BSO’s.”

So, how am I building my toolbox? Well first, I’m creating it on my hard drive rather than in my web browser. I have a folder called “Research Toolbox” and in that folder I have more folders that categorize sources. Folder names include “Cemeteries and Death Records” “Census” “Military” and “USA by State.” The USA by State folder contains 51 folders – 1 folder for each State in the Union and 1 for Washington D.C.

One of my favorite resources is SeekingMichigan.org. I have a lot of relatives in Michigan and this website includes death records from 1897-1929ish (they are adding records) and the 1884 and 1894 Michigan State census’. These records are indexed and browsable. And there’s all kinds of other great collections on the site. Naturally, this needs to be in my toolbox!

To add to my toolbox: I go into the Michigan folder under USA by State and create a new shortcut. I enter the website information and name the shortcut and click finish. Lather, rinse, repeat for all the websites I want to save in my toolbox. So now when I want to research in Michigan, I go to the Michigan folder and I have all kinds of resources to check.  I also keep copies of forms (such as a birth record request form) in this folder, so that all the Michigan specific material is in the same place.

This is a time consuming and tedious process. It will be worth every minute I spend on it! But finding those minutes has been a challenge. I will continue to add to the toolbox as I can.

Task 2 Citing Sources

I haven’t done anything with this task this week. I keep sitting down to read Evidence Explained and either can’t focus or get interrupted by more important tasks like making dinner. I also haven’t done any research, so that I haven’t tackled citing sources isn’t as big of a problem as you’d expect.

My new research and forms and binders have become a mess. I finally gave in and added it all to my old research in my hold box. Part of this is practical as it gets it out of the way of all the other projects on my desk, quite literally. But I’m also considering the idea of taking researching out of the equation until after the 13 weeks of the do-over is complete. There is some talk in the Do-Over group about running a second full 13-week course. I’m hoping Thomas will decide to do that, because I think I need to run through the do-over topics a second time. There’s too much in my world to do this “real time,” that is one week in one week, but if I take longer than one week to do that weeks work, I feel like I am falling behind the conversations in the group.

I will figure it out. In the meantime, onto Week 6!

Genealogy Do-Over Week 4

Managing Projects
Tracking Searches

Ahhhh, Thank you Thomas for giving us an optional week!
So the topics for this week are, essentially, to look at project management options and search tracking options. Thomas gives some great templates and has linked to at least one free project management e-book in the Facebook group. I bought that and will read it. Errrrr… eventually.

But it’s an optional week, as not everyone will want or need to do these things. I am working on a research log but I don’t think I’ll be tracking my searches all that much. And even if I do, I think I won’t be figuring out how to do that until I get back to researching. So a lot of the information coming at me for this subject is getting filed away into the back of my brain and will likely be re-examined later.

So what have I been up to this week?

Well, to start with there’s been the 10-hour days at my job, my mother coming over needing help with her projects and computer questions, the crafting projects with deadlines, making dinner and attempting to keep on top of household things…and failing. I was eating my lunch from a mixing bowl before finally making time to run a load of dishes. Thank goodness for my husband who took the trash out and got some laundry done.

Oh, you meant Genealogical speaking, what have I been up to?

Right. Well in that case. Last week I created an interview questionnaire that covers the basics of a family tree and contacted two of my Aunts to see if they would be willing to be interviewed and set up dates. I then road-tested the interview on my mother while she was over –and a captive audience- and made some revisions to the interview based on that. I actually learned quite a few things interviewing my mom, so that was very worthwhile, even if it did mean I got virtually nothing else done that day.

I went through and made “interview packets” so that I’m ready to go for this weekend’s interviews. They include the introduction which explains what I’m doing and asks permission to record, the questions, a pedigree chart, and several family group sheets to make it easier to take notes. I’m really excited about it. Next task on that is to create a “childhood memories” interview for round two of interviewing.

I’m continuing to log existing records into my Access database and have made a few modifications based on Thomas’s research log. Which, naturally, means I need to revisit most everything I’ve already entered. *heavy sigh* It will be worth it in the long run, just tedious.

I’ve received a couple of BSO’s (Bright Shiny Object) in the mail; one is the death record for my Great-Uncle who died at the age of seven. I immediately went online and printed out the form to get his birth record, filled it out, and then realized I was getting ahead of myself put the whole thing on my to-do list. I’m learning! Slowly. The other BSO arrived last night, my husband’s Grandfather’s military file! He was in the US Navy so the records survived the infamous 1970’s fire. I have flipped through it, found some gems in the first look but will try not to get tied up with it for now.

I’m also impatiently waiting for my Aunt’s DNA to finish processing at Ancestry.com. And I emailed back a DNA connection on my paternal line (yeah, I know, that’s the line I’m doing over, but I didn’t want her to think I’ve lost interest). The lead is solid and I hope to source it out and if I can, I will go another generation back on a surname I thought would never be cracked!

So as you can see, even though it’s been an optional week in the Do-Over program, I haven’t been idle.

Genealogy Do-Over Week 3


Tracking Research
Conducting Research

Still feeling a little behind from the week two mistep. In fact, we are officially on week four so I’m still a little behind. On the upside, week four is optional and I had a productive week three.

One of the things I did during week three was attend Thomas MacEntee’s Legacy Webinar, “My Genealogy DO-Over – A Year of Learning from Research Mistakes” very generously offered for free for the live recording and then a week after that. It was invaluable! Aside from being able to “meet the man behind the plan” we got to watch him use his Research log live. It really made the value of the log stand out.

The Legacy team hosted an after party and Geoff gave a walk through of the Legacy software. I was really impressed with the source writer, to do list, and a few other things we saw. So I downloaded the free version of Legacy and RootsMagic to play around with. I hadn’t planned to switch software, I use Family Tree Maker now and love that it syncs to Ancestry. But the to do/plan function in Family Tree is woefully lacking compared to Legacy and Rootsmagic. Overall I liked the feel and function of Rootsmagic over Legacy and so that’s what I’ve decided to use for my Paternal tree.

I haven’t gotten a lot done as far as my own research. It’s been a busy week and my top priorities haven’t left much time for genealogy. But I have made arrangements with two of my aunts to interview them for my do-over. My dad lives in the same city so I’ll be meeting with him, too. That will get me on the right path for week two and give me a good foundation to really get into the research. While I wait for the calendar to turn enough pages to interview my aunts, I am pulling together my list of questions and making a few notes. I also need to revisit the Access database I created and make a few modifications based on the Thomas’s research log. I can also work on entering my handwritten to-do list into Rootsmagic. So there’s plenty for me to do in this optional week.

Genealogy Do-Over Week 2

OR, “How I nearly got behind because I didn’t read the instructions carefully.”


Setting Research Goals
Conducting Self Interview
Conducting Family Interviews

This week, we are back to basics; writing down what you know. The first part of our assignment is to conduct a self-interview, wherein we write down (on a Family Group Sheet or on notepaper or other chosen method), information relating to ourselves and our family. Birth, marriages/divorces, children, etc. We should also choose a format for the interviews, both ours and family.

The second part of our assignment is to make a LIST of people we would like to interview for the same information. For instance, my list includes my father and all his siblings. This is where I got turned around. I started a list and then got a little overwhelmed at the idea of trying to interview everyone in a week! I stopped my list and went to pinterest to look for interview question ideas. I started thinking about the interviews of my now-deceased Grandparents I had on dvd and cd and the job of getting those transcribed in a week. And then I looked at the state of the house, the length of my to-do list, the amount of overtime I would be working in the week ahead AND remembered I have family coming to visit and just imploded. *poof*

Where did I go wrong? You probably already know. The instructions don’t say “Interview Everyone.” It says “Make a List.” That thumping sound you hear is my head hitting my desk.

So true to my usual last-minute form, I am going to pick a format and do MY self interview tonight. I am going to work on my list of people I want to interview. Then I’m going to set some research goals (one of WILL be to interview the people on that list) and get a good night’s sleep. Because that to-do list doesn’t seem to be getting any shorter and the handout for Week Three will be in my inbox in the morning.

Genealogy Do-Over; Week 1, part three

Topics for Week One
Setting Aside Previous Research
Preparing to Research
Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines

Part Three: Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines

For the “all-in” participants, Thomas asks or recommends we:

1. Create our own “Golden Rules of Genealogy”
2. Come up with a list of 5 top procedures that you can commit to.
3. Make a list of items you must have available when you’re researching

So here are mine. I wrote them down in my Genealogy Do-Over notebook, but this might give you some ideas and it certainly keeps me more accountable.

Golden Rules of Genealogy:
1) Slow Down
2) Evaluate Every Record
3) Cite!
4) Assume Nothing
5) Take a break when needed (whether it’s 5 minutes or 5 days)
6) Ask for help
7) Give Assistance

5 top procedures
1) Time and a Place
a. I have the habit of researching whenever I have 5 minutes. That’s not a good practice in the long haul, because it doesn’t give me time to log the search or results, focus on what I’m looking at, and finish up my research so it’s easy to find my place later. I am also known to haul the laptop downstairs to research while watching TV and then make 4 trips up and down the stairs because I forgot something. I need to create a space in my office (where all my research is) and just do my work there. I may not be able to schedule regular research hours, but I want to at least have a certain amount of time available to work when I sit down to do it. (Haven’t decided what that amount will be yet).
2) Review Record
a. Really look at it! Open the image if it’s available and scrutinize the information. I have learned the hard way that indexes aren’t perfect!
3) Cite, Cite, Cite
a. That copy of Evidence Explained is about to get some use!
4) Index
a. By this, I mean I will enter into the appropriate Access table, note on the FGS and note on the individual checklist.
5) Transcribe
a. To some extent this will be done by indexing. But an Index is not a full transcription. I will need to transcribe the full document before moving on. Still trying to decide how that part will work.

Must Have Items:
1) Pen and white out, Pencil and eraser, Hi-liter.
2) Family Binders – one with Family Group Sheets, one with individual checklists
3) Notepaper
4) Evidence Explained
5) Laptop
a. Family Tree Maker
b. Access Database

Genealogy Do-Over; Week 1, part two

Topics for Week One
Setting Aside Previous Research
Preparing to Research
Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines

Part Two: Preparing to Research

From the Easiest Part, we go now to the Hardest Part.

The people who know me in real life know that I over think and overanalyze and nitpick endlessly. So this part has definitely required the biggest chunk of my time so far and is still ongoing.

What’s involved in Preparing to Research? For me, it involves:

1) Buying a copy of Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills
2) Establishing Base Practices and Guideline (continued in Part 3)
3) Going through the original research to pull records which took considerable time and effort to obtain. This is done, however I restricted it to pulling the vital records I have for myself through my Great-Grandparents. I already see holes I need to fill in!
4) Setting up a new Ancestry Tree and FTM file so they can sync.
5) Setting up a new Family binder, since mine are set aside.
6) Setting up my new Records by Type folders as outlined in the Week One/Part One post.
7) Cleaning out my “stash” of forms, logs, guides, newsletters, etc, both digital and hard copies. I found a lot of e-books and forms I had multiple copies of and even more that I just don’t like and will likely never use. And I have the files I’m keeping more organized than before, too.
8) Printing copies of forms I choose to keep and think I will use and creating a “master” collection. Ideally, I will get in the habit of going to this binder first to use what I have rather than get sidetracked looking for a form template online.
9) Creating an Access Database to log and index my Birth, Death, and Marriage Records as well as Newspaper clippings. Why did I choose Access?
a. I have used it quite often in the past and know that it’s a powerful database. I can log every vital record I identify for all the families I am working on, specify if I have the full record or if I just have an index listing, add source information, specify a microfilm number, add new fields whenever I like. And the query tool will allow me to pull reports on any criteria I like. Since I have individuals in different families living in the same areas as each other, I can sort by film number and have a list of all the records I have “flagged” as ones I want off that film – which means I only have to order the film once.
b. I have one table each for Birth, Death, and Marriage. Since all of the tables are in the same database, this means I can index whichever of these records I find for whichever family I find while I’m researching without having to “bounce” between the excel spreadsheets (one for each record, one for each family), I had originally created. Much Simpler.
c. Since each record that is entered into the database lists which family the record belongs to, I will be able to run reports/queries to get a complete list of the records (either all or a specific type) I already have for a particular family.

What else am I doing to get ready? What? Isn’t that enough?! The biggest challenge of getting ready to start over isn’t the forms or preparing the technology I want to use. The biggest challenge is changing my brain to research differently. I went to the Family History Library near me to look though a microfilm I had ordered before the Do-Over began and had to really remind myself not to go down rabbit trails as I spotted surnames that were very familiar to me. Instead, I started taking notes about what I was finding on that film and what I might want to check for later. So there might be hope for me yet!