Announcing the Genealogy Do-Over

Announcing the Genealogy Do-Over - the 2015 educational initiative at GeneaBloggers - where you do get to go home again . . . and start over.

Today I’m making a big announcement: Me and genealogy are parting ways. Done. Finished. Game over.

Have you ever said to yourself, “That’s it! I’ve had it and it just isn’t worth it anymore!” Well, have you? Sort of like the character Howard Beale in Network when he says, live on air, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

My Past Genealogy Research Frustrates Me!


Before you think that I’m leaving the genealogy community or closing down my genealogy business, let me clarify what I mean by leaving: Starting January 2nd, I’m setting my 20+ years of genealogy research aside and starting over. From scratch.

Seriously. How many times have you thought about doing the same thing? Did you start your research the same way I did, by just collecting names, grabbing stuff from other online trees, or pasting text into your genealogy software? Lately, has the prospect of going back and citing sources and proving facts and evidence brought you down and ruined your genealogy buzz? Do you throw up your hands and say, “I give up!” only to return to the same review and edit process days or weeks later?

If you’re like me, you need a genealogy makeover. Better yet, a Genealogy Do-Over. That’s what I’m calling this journey upon which I’m embarking in 2015. And I want you to come along.

Genealogy Do-Over: A New Journey of Genealogical Discovery

journey 02

Here is the short summary of Genealogy Do-Over: I set aside everything* related to my genealogy research including notebooks, papers, and even digitized files and my genealogy database files and START OVER. I’m hitting the reset button. I’m allowing myself to have a do-over! (* certain items such as vital records ordered and paid for or research gathered on long-distance trips can be retained).

Since I started my initial research, much has changed in the areas of genealogy research methodology and education. I now realize the need to collect facts and track them properly, including the use of source citations. I now understand the process of analyzing evidence and proving facts to reach a conclusion. In essence, I know a lot more about the “process” of genealogical research and I want to put it to use.

This is not to say that I haven’t been following proven guidelines when it comes to finding family history. For my research clients (mostly pro bono), I actually employ all the methods advocated by many in the genealogy community. However, when it comes to my own research from years ago, I’m not walking the walk . . . I’m just talking the talk.

It isn’t always easy to “walk backwards” and review each and every bit of information gathered over the years. Instead, I want to do more than re-walk a trodden path: I want to head out from the same starting point and see where the journey takes me this time. I’ll have better tools, better knowledge and be better equipped for each twist and turn. And again, I encourage you to join me on this journey.

The Genealogy Do-Over journey is constructed of 13 mileposts or journey markers which are laid out over 13 weeks. You can choose to pace yourself differently. You can even decide to drop some of the less important tasks and add your own. Do whatever it takes to ensure that you are on a firm footing to finding your ancestors.

A short synopsis of my planned route (a full schedule will be announced soon):

  • Take inventory of what I have, box up the physical items and set them aside.
  • Move all digital genealogy files into a HOLD folder.
  • Gather tools to research.
  • Set research goals.
  • Start with my own knowledge and write it down.
  • Start tracking research.
  • Interview family members.
  • And more!

And then, week by week, continue with my research, add more skills and areas of focus including citing sources, tracking searches, building a research toolbox, creating an educational plan, researching offline as well as online, and more.

By the end of the 13 weeks I hope to have completed a review of a firm foundation in genealogy and family history research skill building. I realize that some focus areas may differ; anyone along for the journey has the freedom to add or remove content. This program has to work for you and should not be something that you dread each week or that you find you are working against.

How Much is a Ticket?

Genealogy Do-Over Tickets

There is no price. A journey that could very well revolutionize the way you’ve been doing genealogy research is priceless.

The fact is that there is no cost to using the Genealogy Do-Over program. There will be weekly blog posts here at GeneaBloggers outlining each week’s tasks and I’ll post my own personal progress as well. In addition, there will be free webinars (like this one at Legacy Family Tree), a boot camp on using a research log, and even incentives such as prizes related to a specific week’s topic. I may even publish another free e-book!

You’re Invited – You Get a Genealogy Do-Over Too


What I want most is a collaborative community effort to re-examine the way in which each of us has personally pursued our genealogical research. I intend to be honest with myself without beating myself up. I want to feel the joy of looking at one small fact and perhaps realizing that I never looked at it from all angles. I want the discipline of not following a possible lead just because it shakes or makes more noise than other leads.

Most of all, I want to be open to all possibilities on my journey of genealogical self-discovery and to enjoy that journey. This means researching with a plan, with a purpose, with sound practices and with the support of my fellow researchers. I don’t intend to make this journey again. Genealogy Do-Over is my chance to get it right.

So stay tuned, watch for a new domain – – and look for more announcements before the January 2, 2015 start date!

©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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79 thoughts on “Announcing the Genealogy Do-Over

  1. YES, DO-OVER! I’m excited for this. I have only been researching for three years and I know I’m not doing it right after finding this blog. I’ve learned so much. To invite us to watch you’re do-over and learn along the way is priceless and I thank you for that. 2015 is when I start a blog for all my research as a do-over. So exciting.

  2. This sounds really exciting. One question about your do-over though — you don’t mention keeping information gathered from family members. I don’t know about you, but when I started recording my family history 15 years ago my first step was interviewing family members, many of whom have died in the last 15 years. If I threw out that basic foundation of my research I would not have a starting place. Are those interviews “keepers”?


    Why have I been on this SAME THING for the last six months. I’ve felt like I started my research all over again as I’ve been going back and citing sources for EVERYTHING…adding in collateral lines that I ignored in favor of non-collateral lines and finding connections…establishing facts based on GPS…noticing I left out certain facts documented on vital records…you name it.

  4. I do a mini do-over every week for my “Surname Saturday” posts. I start from scratch and reprove what I have for each lineage that I post for this meme. Its a great exercise in restraint not to peek at my old notes and sources. At the end I do compare what I discovered to what I had (do you plan to do this?). I think the fact that I started my research way before computers (over 35 years ago) has had its plusses and minuses in affecting the quality of my research. I find I’m pretty solid on those lines I researched before I owned a personal computer, and I find more “iffy” lines on ones I traced later. However, the online community has helped me breakdown some very tough brick walls. I can’t wait to read along in your new blog.

  5. Patricia – thanks for bringing this up – anything that is impossible or difficult to replace – such as interviews with family members that are deceased or can’t communicate – will be retained.

  6. Thank you, thank you, Thomas. Years of being undiscipline in my research along with my lack of organizational skills has really caught up with me. When I started years ago I had no mentor and basically learned on my own how to do research and unfortunately I’ve made every mistake in the book. This past year I’ve been trying to dig myself out of this hole I’ve created and it has taken away valuable research time that I could be doing. A Genealogy Do-Over sounds good to me.

  7. This is something I’ve been considering (and procrastinating over!) for the past year. Between my grandmother, mother, aunt, and myself, we have 50 years of research that just feels overwhelming now. Scattered sources, scattered databases — at minimum four different genealogists’ ways of gathering, sorting, indexing, entering … ughh. I have been wanting to do a complete reset of all our information, as well as start a blog, but I’m stuck on the “how”. I will be looking forward to your new series for some ideas on getting past that “how” stage. Thank you!

  8. A Do-Over is exactly what I need! Family health issues necessitated finding a particular death date. I found it – hooray! – only to dig out my papers and realize I’ve had that info for 25 years. I bought RootsMagic 6 last Christmas, but did nothing with it. Now that RM7 is out, I need to get stuff entered. My photos need scanning and organizing. I ordered a DNA test last year; did nothing with it for several months; finally sent it in and read the results; but have not shared them yet with the distant relative who encouraged me to test in the first place. I need a Do-Over *AND* a kick in the pants. Can you do both? 😉

  9. Oh oh thank you Thomas, I’ve been thinking I need to do this also. Waiting with bated breath for each posting. Have a great day.

  10. OK, not only do I think this is a great idea, I think I jump started it. I decided to go back to basics and start from the beginning and just do the work. I admit, I used Thomas’ template which gave me the discipline to check the missing dates and missing information. And I have found a great deal of information that was there that I sorta missed the first time. Now I am building a great TO DO for February in SLC.

  11. Can’t wait. What a way to start the New Year. Have hit several brick walls working on supplements for my DAR. My starting over and taking a new look with your suggestions is what I need. Merry Christmas and a Happy Healthy New Year Thomas to you and your family.

  12. I love the idea. I did a genealogy-do-over three years ago. I started all over of scratch.. went through all my notes, all my records, everything I knew and found out what I actually didn’t know but just guessed.

  13. What a great incentive! Just what I need. Thanks for giving permission to do this…which is what I needed.

  14. Don’t wait too long on interviewing family members, especially if they are senior citizens. I was working on a book on my mother’s family and had planned to talk to my father about his family when he unexpectedly passed away. So, I have questions that will never be answered.

  15. I did a do-over this past spring in terms of proving facts, adding citations, etc., however I have found that even though I did cite my sources, those citations still need work. It is a task I was hoping to complete before the end of the year but it’s been six weeks since I ordered my copy of Evidence Explained and I’m still waiting (international postage.. grrr). However, I do now feel confident in my facts and have recently started a blog to share what I’ve discovered and in turn it is helping me realise what I still need to uncover. I’m interested to see your process and see what I can do to further tweak my process.

    I found that starting over was extremely freeing in many respects. 🙂

  16. I did something similar- same idea- in 2010 upon learning that my youngest cousin extended the family line! I went back and got my PLCGS (canada) and use my 30 year old tree as an INDEX and started documenting my new search from the beginning.Now is a question of time to write CITATIONs to these documents.I now know that he will have a better map to follow.It was a good move in my part.

  17. You know I love this project Thomas! So much so, that I pushed my local state society to invite you to give a webinar about Genealogy Do-Over! I’m so glad you accepted the offer for the webinar.
    I, too, have been working on a Do-Over on my husband’s LAIR genealogy mainly to gather what’s taken place in the family since 1993 when I published the book up to current day. Plus, go back each generation to “catch up” on the research.
    I started from scratch inputting the data on hubby’s family all over again and THIS time much better. (Hmmm, maybe it was a good thing losing all the original data entry!)
    I will be watching and seeing you from week-to-week. I’m also putting all of my beginner – intermediate – advance students to this challenge as well. I know they each learned well (great teacher they had ), but I also know they probably got off the tracks somewhere.
    Let the journey begin!!!
    ;o) Valerie

  18. I have started the same project a while ago. However, it is taking much longer than I anticipated. But I am enjoying it. I look forward to seeing your milestones and following along.

  19. Yup! I’m in for this challenge, Thomas. Completing the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge (well, it will be completed in 3 weeks) – showed me the weaknesses and the strengths of my research. I was relieved to see I wasn’t the only person who hadn’t fixed my places or sources appropriately into my tree!

    A year ago, I started a brand-spanking-new tree, carefully inputted myself and all appropriate photos and documents — and then stopped cold. It suddenly felt quite daunting, as I have early NE settlers from 1625 onwards. This will indeed be a challenge for me. Think I may need to stock up on some red wine…

  20. I’m ahead of you by a couple of months! I started a brand new tree, and every event, person, and place is correctly sourced, analyzed, etc. It was a huge decision to make as I have been doing this for about 20 years now, but like you, when I first started with my genealogy I did not really know what I was doing; nothing was sourced and, as I have since discovered, some of it was not even true! I now have a sense of satisfaction with my new tree and it has been fun discovering new facts that weren’t available before. Even though I have already started, with the holidays and family obligations I haven’t gotten too far so I will be going on the journey with you. I can’t wait!

  21. This is exactly what I need! I started my genealogy when I was in high school, and have done it sporadically over the years while raising my children. My files are in chaos. I’m in!

  22. I’m in. I know I’ve been bad. I hope this will also mean I can get back to my webpage it do it the right way also (regular post would be a start).

    I hope this will help with some new societies I want to join also. I can do a better job of documentation.

    Just a question – do you have a pre-assignment to do. I get boxing up stuff, but is there anything else we can start putting aside?

  23. I’m In!! Matter of fact I started my Do Over last week. I decided to work on one fact at a time and to make sure to cite, create a research log, task list, and questions as I go this time and to make I leave a note where I leave off.

  24. Great idea, Thomas! I’m not planning a complete do-over but, with your prompting, I’m going to take another very close look at every document and photo. There are always details or subtle clues that get missed in the excitement of discovery or identification. 2015 will be the year that I milk every last bit of info from every scrap of data in my files. Thanks for the idea. Happy holidays!

  25. Starting over completely is just too much for me – but I will follow along and try to accumulate new habits, fixing as I go. I have both my personal ancestry and a one-name-study, so I will be very busy!

  26. I have been trying to reorganize my information so that I can insure that I have included everything I have and cited all my sources.
    However much of my information has been poorly cited or not fully documented.
    I will follow this and

  27. I have started over four times, in twenty years, and recently started on the fifth try. Maybe this one, with your help, will come out right.

  28. I started in 1982. Took a 10 year break, when the internet was coming on line. To make it manageable, I will just work on one line. This should be interesting.

  29. I have been thinking about doing this for a few months now! I’m so glad you’re doing this, I wasn’t looking forward to going it alone.

  30. Hello Thomas,

    For the past half-year, I’ve been contemplating this very same thing!
    I’ve been dreading the thought of scanning all of my paper files.
    I’ve been dreading re-scanning all of my photos.
    I’ve been dreading re-thinking my software choices.
    And on and on it goes…

    Count me in on your journey!

  31. Great idea, Thomas! This is something I’ve been thinking on for a couple of years, now; but the prospect of actually going back and redoing everything properly seemed just too monumental! I’ll be following along and participating, as I can.
    Thanks for taking the initiative on this!

    Happy holidays,

  32. So…Gary and I were driving from NC back to DC yesterday and we were talking about this very topic (BEFORE I saw your post this morning!) What will be so amazing about this is that we will be solidifying today’s research techniques not only for ourselves, but for those just beginning their research. We’ll be able to help them get on board the genealogy train at the right station. This is a terrific initiative and so very timely — and I’m thrilled that you are motivating us to get into the 21st century! Have you seen James Tanner’s post on this issue?

    Thank you!!!

  33. Thomas,

    This is a great idea. I have been doing genealogy for 20 years and have also have been thinking about starting over. I am going to get a jump-start on this during my Christmas vacation. I look forward to reading about your journey and will also be sharing mine on my blog, Many of the elders in my family have passed on and I am thankful for what I learned from them. During my new genealogy beginning, I also want to take some time to document my over 50 years of life as well as the lives of my ancestors.

  34. I’m in!!! The other day I looked at an older record I found and I couldn’t remember how or where I got the information. I definitely need a do-over.

  35. Count me in, Thomas! I have thought for some time that I needed to review my early research and that I tended to make assumptions. . You have given me an incentive and I look forward to reading more all about it and participating in this journey.

  36. I think this is an amazingly wonderful idea. I have spent the last 6 montring to find out what info I have on the folks I know about. I would be embarassed to tell you the number of duplicates of info I have found. I have found putting info into Evernote to help.. Not sure, at least for me, your VERY hopeful time frame will do it!! 🙁

  37. I have been contemplating this but have not pulled the trigger. I have done it on a couple small family groups in my research and it was helpful.
    Can’t wait to follow along on this!

  38. I recently purchased Legacy 8 Deluxe when it was Black Friday sale. I had decided I didn’t want to import a GEDCOM with all its inherent mistakes/issues, so had decided to manually enter the information myself. Absolutely PERFECT TIMING! I too started about 20 yrs ago, was on my own and have tried my best to not include information until I felt comfortable it was correct. With a surname of Jones it has proved to be quite a challenge! Count me in!! I’m totally new to the blogosphere, so will we receive an e-mail or be reliant upon either catching the FB post or do we check into the blog? Thanks for the heads-up. Since the holidays are usually quiet I should have plenty of time to get things “boxed” up and get my workspace ready to begin. Looking forward to all the company on the journey. See you in January! Hope all have a blessed Christmas and New Year. Onward to 2015!

  39. This sounds like a good plan for me also. I’ve been a widow for a little over 2 years now, and lost my oldest daughter year ago. lost a brother and sister between them, so time to start anew. thanks for the invite. been working mine since 1968.

  40. I’ve been wanting to start a new tree for Society membership use. But the thought of starting fresh is daunting! But, I need a good tree without unnecessary lines attached with properly sourced information that’s acceptable to these different societies. I have the information in so many trees, with so much clutter! This will be the perfect project. Count me in!

  41. I was reading this thinking, my mind has typed this out, as this is all I have been thinking about lately when it comes to my genealogy and my family tree. I did the same things, added to my tree without confirming the other trees were complete matches and the information they had was correct also. WOW. I have been thinking about starting over also and know it is going to be a pain.

  42. I started researching late 70’s and became an Ancestry member in 2003 always using the Family Tree Maker. One day, I accidentally did an Ancestry Sync with FTM and collected quite a few other ancestry family trees that turned out to be wrong. I was tired, should have known better, but thought I was saving them as another tree to check sources later not realizing it was all going into my own family tree. What a mess. No matter what I did I could not be sure I was getting rid of the incorrect info (and there was plenty). Horrified and only knowing the basics with computers, I felt I needed to start over, re-doing my tree completely listing it with my own sources to be sure all the years of careful searching and sourcing was once again correct. I turned off the Ancestry Sync so I wouldn’t do it again and was just beginning this dreaded task that I knew what take me forever when you drew my name.

    Then about a month later, at the end of a Legacy Webinar I was watching, my name was drawn for a free Legacy 8 family history program. Great timing.
    Since I had to re-do everything, I decided the extra time I would take learning a new program was nothing compared to completely re-entering & sourcing everything all over again. So… I might as well redo it in Legacy 8 since I liked it better and just won the newest version. 😉 Starting my redo this past summer, I’ve only scratched the surface…so I’m with ya’ll.

  43. This is exactly what I need!! I am doing this very thing!! I am even launching a new blog in January to help me start over.

  44. Sounds good. My on and off researching and almost non-existent records keeping has led to me wasting way too much time looking at the same stuff as I don’t recall what I’ve found or what I’ve looked at. Very excited!

  45. May I please join you? My research is increasingly diffuse, and I find myself wandering along a path because it happens to have fine online documentation, but these folks are not necessarily integral to my tree. This project gives me hope that I can develop new focus and discipline.

  46. Ok Thomas, I’m in. I’ve already begun working on sort of a “flow chart” of how I want things to run in my new tree (1. documents will be scanned with the source citation on the front, 2. documents will be named consistently [example], etc.) I just hope I’m not biting off more than I can chew …

  47. Tried a total restart a few years ago and fizzled.
    Tried a more realistic redo over the last batch of months that had more to do with trying, slowly, to get all my tools and methods and plans and protocols and organization lined up *first*, and then start doing all the fixing, one person at a time, bottom up. I finally had these things pretty much lined up, and was ready to start slogging on, when your challenge showed up.
    Perfect timing! I’m in!
    The one part I can’t let go of, for budgetary reasons, is that online images for crucial documents will be retained…. They will be sourced correctly, analyzed carefully (many through Evidentia), and there will be a ‘wish-list’ file for ‘order the originals when you win the lottery’. I know there can be differences, but I have to leave that to future genealogists….

  48. Thank you! I’ve thought about doing this for some time now, it will be great with all of us working together!

  49. I started on the same path a few years ago, starting over using TMG instead of Legacy. Now I want to start over, and avoid adding anyone to my new tree until I have good evidence to show they belong there. There are too many people in my tree because they were in someone else’s unsourced printed or digital genealogy. And there are relationships that should be “possible” rather than proven, e.g. Two generations with the same surname in the same household does not demonstrate that the older people are parents and the younger people are children without additional evidence.

  50. When I first read this from your post on Facebook, I was immediately intrigued. AND I plan to join the throng although I think mine will be more like a genealogy-finally-do-it-right situation. For example, I never did start with ME. And most of all I want my genealogy site for my family to REALLY get going where my family gets more and more intrigued with what I love to do.

  51. So did you read my mind Thomas? Had decided that 2015 was the year to start again, reviewing, refiling and resorting. Making sense of all the stuff. Figure it might take more than a year to sort out, but that is the plan, to start a fresh database in 2015. My aim it to post most of it on the four major genie sites. Ancestry, Findmypast, My Heritage and FamilySearch (well sort the current lines out as I sort the ones out in my offline work). Then if I get hit by a bus at least the bones of my work will be out there and ACCURATE.

    Glad to know I am not the only crazy one thinking along these lines.

    Joining you from Down under – so do I start on my time the 3rd of January to be in sync with you??? Nice to have an extra day before starting – on second thoughts with a birth family to trace I do have double the work on one line. Might have to start on the 2nd my time! 😉

  52. I decided to do this a few weeks ago because I found out I have not been citing my sources correctly. I am looking forward to being a part of this. Great

  53. Thomas, I started about 40 years ago, and have notebooks with materials that I never input as sources into the computer. Since I’m now working on my PLCGS, and trying to blog my different surnames have been on a sort of Do-over, which the inheritance of 30+ boxes of family memorabilia, photos and letters etc are threatening to overwhelm…. I hope that I can use the blog suggestions to mine the new stuff and combine with old…. Count me in…. And early Happy Birthday, in case I forget next week!

  54. You better be thinking of doing it this time in a source-based fashion, organizing all your materials and files source-based, and using source-based data entry (as opposed to person-based).

    Otherwise, I’m certain you’ll be pressing your reset button once again 10 years from now to do it source-based.

    Looking forward to seeing how you do, since I’ll be doing the same in a couple of years from now.


  55. Like so many who have commented, this has been on my list of things I need to do. I get so excited when I am finding information that I forget to correctly save it and cite it. Gotta build some new good habits!

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  58. Thank You Thomas!!!! I am definitely “in” and very much looking forward to it!! This is something I have been considering for quite awhile!! So glad you are guiding us!!

  59. Hoping to learn some tips and tricks as we travel down this ‘Do-Over Highway’. Learning from others will give us new ideas as we ‘do-over’ our own files. Thanks for thing this up.

  60. I started over in March, not putting anyone in my new version of Legacy until there was proof. I have made a little progress, but have so much more to do. I’m looking forward to learning more, even though I’ve been doing this for 40+ years (I started really young!) GREATLY looking forward to this!

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  62. I know I posted over on Facebook, but will add it here as well — please count me in. i need a do over on my biggest family file because I added a tree from a relative and it not only included info for relatives of his that are absolutely no relation to me, but also included lots of inaccurate info. Best to start over and go with what is proven and to also show why it is proven!

  63. This is just what I need to do. So I am all in and can’t wait to start. By the way have a very Happy Holiday.

  64. Thomas, I think a lot of us were just waiting for permission to start over. I’m in and on the journey with you. Thanks for all you do to strengthen and support this community . . . and thanks for starting over rather than giving up. I think that’s a tough decision for many when they realize they could have done things better the first time.

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  66. This is just what I need, been trying to get started on my own but hasn’t worked out. Glad you came up with this.

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  68. I’ve decided to start from scratch too! However, I’m going to use my “existing tree” as a base rather than having to reenter all the info into a new tree. I’m reviewing each person. If the info is verified I enter or correct the source info, and I change the last name to ALL CAPS. That way I know which ones are correct and which ones still need verification or deletion.

  69. Looking forward to joining you, Thomas, and everyone else too for the 2015 Genealogy Do-Over. Thanks for originating a unique idea and a great opportunity. Happy Holidays!

  70. Oh my gosh, where do you get the energy for a do over? It would be interesting to see a year from now (or other time interval) how many finished the Do over project! I regards to genealogy I really think about the time commitment and how tedious any project will be. After much though I want my research to be a foundation and realize there will be much more for others to discover BUT they won’t have to read do what I’ve done.

    I’ve have limited myself on how I research so I can publish.

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