Genealogy Do-Over – Month 12 – December 2016

Genealogy Do-Over - Month 12:

Click here for a list of ALL The Genealogy Do-Over Topics for 2016.

Topics: 1) Sharing research and 2) Securing research data

Sharing Research

Sharing your genealogy research with others should be a “no-brainer,” right? But if you have been doing genealogy for a number of years, you know that it is not always as easy as it should be.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Collaborating and Sharing

Here are some ways you can not only benefit from collaborating and sharing with other genealogists, but also repay those researchers who provided valuable information for your own search.

  • Be nice. The world is a small town. The genealogy community is really a small place and you realize that more and more with the advent of social media. Rude genealogists are duly noted and their reputation will precede them. Kindness offered to others is often returned ten-fold.
  • Ask for attribution and give attribution. If you want your work to be credited, make sure you are walking the walk on attribution. Drafting the text, sending it to the researcher, and getting their approval is a nice gesture. Also don’t be afraid to set some reasonable rules when providing your research and always ask for attribution. Again, providing the ready-made text that credits your work not only makes it easier, but can also help educate the other researcher if they are a newbie.
  • Don’t give to get. It can be difficult to embrace an abundance model, but once you start to share with others, you get the hang of how it works. Don’t fall into the “tit for tat” game, but don’t be a sucker either.
  • Track your work. Use Google Alerts ( to track your copyrighted content. One trick: create a unique phrase for each document or intentionally misspell a word in a phrase and use them as your search string.

You think it would be simple to collaborate and share especially since the genealogy community is generally known as a dedicated and intelligent group of researchers all focused on a similar goal: finding our ancestors. Yet researchers are people, and as such, little things, like the ego and even misinformation or lack of knowledge, can be like sand in the gears of the genealogy machine.

Securing Research Data

Whether you are brand new to genealogy and The Genealogy Do-Over is your first serious effort at research OR you have accumulated years and years of research, let me ask you this question: What have you done to preserve and “future proof” all your hard work?

More difficult questions include:

  • If you lost all your data, would you be able to recreate it?
  • Would you even know where to begin?
  • If you died today, do you know what your family would do with your research?
  • Have you made plans to preserve your research for generations to come?

Backing Up Your Genealogy Data

Your genealogy research data is an investment reflecting the time and effort you’ve spent tracing your roots. Like any other investment, your genealogy data should be safe and secure for future use.

The best way to get started on backing up your genealogy data:

  • Create a backup plan. Just like a research plan for your genealogy, you need to determine what data needs to be backed up and how.
  • Identify data for backup. Don’t forget that as genealogists we tend to store data in many different places. Do you have emails and Internet favorites related to genealogy? Are you certain that information is backed up?
  • Identify a backup method that works for you. Don’t select a backup method, such as copying data each week to a flash drive, if you aren’t going to perform the task on a set schedule. Look for automated backups such as cloud backup or an external hard drive with auto-backup software.
  • Test your backup data. Why bother backing up data if you can’t prove it works? Run a test restore on data and make sure you’re covered.
  • Future-proof your technology. Don’t rely on outdated tech such as backing up to CDs and DVDs (did you know the coating degrades on these items after just five years?). Upgrade to current technology that has been proven and tested, not the “latest” new thing just on the market.

Future Proofing Your Genealogy Research

Do you have concerns about what will happen to your research once you’ve passed on? More and more genealogists are realizing that they have not put safeguards into place to ensure that their years of work won’t simply be discarded by family members and friends.

Here are areas that require your attention:

  • Take inventory. Determine what you have and this includes hard copy as well as digital assets and online sites.
  • Include in estate planning. Create a codicil to your will or make sure there are instructions concerning your genealogy research.
  • Have that conversation with family. Be very clear about where your genealogy research is located, why it is important, and what you want done with it.
  • Contact organizations. Determine which libraries, societies and archives will accept all or part of your collection. Donate items you don’t need NOW.
  • Post items online. Consider starting a blog, even a private one, to preserve your family stories. Do the same with a family tree on Ancestry or one of the popular genealogy sites.
  • Do stuff NOW. Tell your own stories NOW. Write that genealogy book NOW. Interview family members NOW.

I will admit that none of this is easy to do. It is easy to talk about and give advice on the topic, but many of us just tend to put it off . . . until it is too late.

Month 12 To Do List – Full Do-Over Participants

  • Sharing Research: If you have any trees or items you have shared prior to embarking on The Genealogy Do-Over, consider “warning” others about the presence of any unsourced information. Realize that you are not calling out your mistakes . . . you could even give a nice plug for The Genealogy Do-Over in your explanation!
  • Securing research data: Seriously consider creating an action plan for both backing up your genealogy research data and ensuring that it is preserved for future generations.

Month 12 To Do List – Review or “Go-Over” Participants

  • Sharing Research: If you have the time (and the energy) and you are correcting your research, consider doing the same for any online trees or messages or other information you’ve shared with others.
  • Securing research data: Seriously consider creating an action plan for both backing up your genealogy research data and ensuring that it is preserved for future generations.

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Genealogy Do-Over – Month 11 – November 2016

The Genealogy Do-Over - Month 11 Topics: 1) Reviewing Social Media Options and 2) Building a Research Network

Click here for a list of ALL The Genealogy Do-Over Topics for 2016.

Topics: 1) Reviewing Social Media Options, 2) Building a Research Network, and 3) Reviewing Research Travel Options

Reviewing Social Media Options

Recently I had a conversation with a group of genealogists, of varying ages and levels of experience. One person made the following statement: You really can’t succeed with your genealogy research these days without some use of social media.

And the reaction? Most of the heads nodded yes. I think that five years ago such a statement would have caused quite a debate. But in the past five years we’ve seen social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest take over for the tools we may have used 10 or 20 years ago: queries posted in newsletters, lookup requests posted in online groups or online bulletin boards (remember those?), and even items posted in periodicals like Everton’s Genealogical Helper.

Social Media Resources

Here are some social media resources that you may not have considered as a way to assist in your genealogical research:

  • Technology for Genealogy ( – do you have a technical question related to genealogy software or even what type of scanner to buy? Here is a group of over 18,000 helpful genealogists who will gladly answer any type of question.
  • The Organized Genealogist ( – over 26,000 people sharing ideas about getting their genealogy materials and digital files organized. Covers filing systems, file naming conventions, archival practices and more. Again, another group where you post a question and other helpful genealogists provide answers and options.
  • Genealogy – Cite Your Sources ( – do have a question about the proper way to cite a specific record? Not sure how to get started on citing your sources? This group will point you in the right direction and show you how easy it is to get your sources cited.
  • Pinterest – while some people think Pinterest is purely a bunch of BSOs (“bright and shiny objects”), others have been able to build research toolboxes and even ancestor timelines to share with others. Keep in mind that Pinterest is currently the #3 source for website traffic (after Google and Facebook). See the GeneaBloggers boards on Pinterest ( for examples.
  • Twitter – did you know you can search Twitter without having a Twitter account? Use this link to search the #genealogy “hashtag” ( Remember that a hashtag is simply a label or a way to tell people what the posted message is about.

Review your options and don’t be afraid to sign up for a social media account, even if you have to delete it later.

Building a Research Network

You might be wondering, “What does research network mean?” Well, by participating in The Genealogy Do-Over, you’re already part of a network.

“No genealogist is an island.” While pursuing one’s roots may seem like a solitary obsession, the truth is that as researchers we soon realize that we cannot “go it alone.” Whether it is joining a local genealogical society or engaging with a regular group of researchers at a local library or even joining a genealogy-focused Facebook group, you’ll get more out of the entire experience if you slowly build a network

Research Network = Research Toolbox

Don’t forget that one of the earlier topics for The Genealogy Do-Over was Building a Research Toolbox. Well, approach building your genealogy network the same way.

This does not mean that you only engage with other genealogists who can offer you some knowledge or help you with your research. It is a two way street. In fact, my approach has been more of a one way street: give your knowledge freely and you will attract others who can help you in the future.

If you have a hard time remembering a person’s name, face and genealogy focus area, consider using a contact program or even Evernote ( to “keep tabs” on your network. Another great platform, believe it or not, is LinkedIn ( With LinkedIn, you can create your own profile and then seek out other genealogists and people with similar interests. Check out my profile at to see how you can add skills, publications and even articles and then make connections with other users.

Reviewing Research Travel Options

While I travel quite a bit delivering genealogy lectures, I always try to squeeze in some research during a trip. It could be a visit to a local genealogy society library, a cemetery or a historical site. And if I get a chance to take a personal vacation, chances are it will involve genealogy research!

Sponsored Research Trips, Genealogy Cruises and More

While you may have been doing genealogy for years, you may not realize that organized genealogy research trips sponsored by genealogical societies as well as individuals have become very popular. In addition, a genealogy cruise is a great way to take a vacation yet still get a solid genealogy education.

  • Genealogy Society Trips. Most organized research trips don’t include the actual travel expense of arriving at the destination – that is your responsibility. But once there, your accommodations and some meals are covered as well as consultation sessions with professional genealogists. Check out the upcoming trips at the National Genealogical Society ( In addition, American Ancestors (aka New England Historic Genealogical Society) offers organized research programs (
  • Individual or Vendor-Sponsored Trips. Very often a professional genealogist will organize a research trip to a well-known repository such as the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah or the New York State Library in Albany, New York. Leland Meitzler, of Family Roots Publishing, sponsors the Salt Lake Christmas Tour the second week of December each year ( which includes accommodations at the Salt Lake Plaza Hotel right next to the Family History Library, help from consultants and also close to 30 classes throughout the week!
  • Individually-Tailored Trips. There are times when you know where you want to go and what records you want to look at, but the language and culture might be a barrier. Kathy Wurth of Family Tree Tours ( can assist you with genealogy research in Germany and arranging assistance from local German genealogists who know the records.
  • Genealogy Cruises. Once you’ve taken a genealogy cruise, you’ll wish that all your genealogy trips were this much fun! Check out the many different cruises offered by Unlock the Past (

Do-It-Yourself Research Trips

You may prefer to “fly solo” or find that an organized trip does not exist for your specific area of research. Or you may want to attend a national genealogy conference for the first time and then tack on a few days for research. No matter the reason, many genealogists prefer to plan out their own trips.

Here are some areas to review and consider when planning the ultimate genealogy research trip:

  • What Type of Traveler Are You? This may seem silly, but it really does matter that you understand your travel habits. Why? Well, one reason is that recognizing your “must haves” and how you respond to unexpected changes can help you plan a more productive and enjoyable trip.
  • Preparation and Packing. Some of us pack at the last minute while others pull out the suitcase weeks ahead of a trip. Whatever works for you, make sure you have a checklist and consider the tools you’ll need to get the most out of your research.
  • Preferred Mode of Transportation. Do you hate to fly? Do you love the nostalgia of a train ride? Or are you a road warrior with an RV ready to go? Use the method of getting there and back that works for you!
  • Accommodations. Spartan, since you’ll spend little time in the room? Or luxurious so you can be pampered after a tough day of research? Where you stay can really set the mood for your entire trip.
  • Expenses. Create a budget and prioritize items as “must haves” and “optional.” Find ways to save money so you can purchase books and souvenirs or splurge on a celebratory dinner the last night of your trip.
  • Emergencies and Last Minute Changes. Things happen, and how you react and can adapt to change can sink or save a research trip. Make sure you have emergency information for each location including hospitals, urgent care centers and pharmacies. Also let your friends and family know where you are and how to reach you during the trip.

Also, if you plan on traveling with another researcher, make sure you review all the items above with that person. There is nothing worse than being on a trip you have planned all year for, only to find out that you have different “must haves” and “likes” than your traveling companion.

Month 11 To Do List – Full Do-Over Participants

  • Social Media: If you have not used social media in any form, you may want to go slow and start with one platform, such as Facebook. Also, get help from someone who knows Facebook and can help you get set up. And my best advice: only use it for genealogy. No games, no drama, no nonsense. I’ve found that with a very narrow use of Facebook (mainly connecting with other genealogists), I’ve had a much better experience on the site.
  • Research Trip: If you have not taken a research trip in a while, make sure that you are using your best research (meaning from The Genealogy Do-Over) when you head out. Also, check out all the new apps and sites that make traveling easier!

Month 11 To Do List – Review or “Go-Over” Participants

  • Social Media: If you are currently using social media, challenge yourself to look at other platforms besides the ones you are currently using.
  • Research Trip: Although you are “reviewing” your previous genealogy research, there should be no need to retrace your steps and revisit old research locations . . . unless you believe you will locate new items and make progress. Consider trying a sponsored research trip or heading out to a new locale!

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Genealogy Do-Over – Month 10 – October 2016

The Genealogy Do-Over - Month 10 Topics: 1) Reviewing DNA Testing Options and 2) Organizing Research Materials - Digital

Click here for a list of ALL The Genealogy Do-Over Topics for 2016.

Topics: 1) Reviewing DNA Testing Options and 2) Organizing Research Materials – Digital

Reviewing DNA Testing Options

One of my biggest research challenges has been to connect two different lines of ancestors: the MacEntees of Gardiner, Ulster County, New York with the more famous McEntees of Kingston, also in Ulster County. The only way I’ll likely prove one of my long-held theories is through DNA testing.

Which DNA Test is Best? One Way to Start . . .

. . . is to read! That means studying various articles available online and in print. I’ve learned so much over the past five years from these great blogs that feature DNA and genealogy:

DNA Genealogy Toolkit

Another great read – and FREE – is the Jump into Genetic Genealogy: Use Genealogical DNA Testing to Solve Family Mysteries e-book from Family Tree University. This guide will help you learn the terminology involved with DNA genealogy and you’ll be able to differentiate between the various tests.

How about a wiki, like Wikipedia, but for DNA genealogy? That’s what you’ll find at the ISOGG Wiki ( created and maintained by the International Society of Genetic Genealogy. This site makes it easy to search for terminology, DNA test vendors, and more.

Interpreting DNA Testing Results

One tool I need to use more is GedMatch ( which allows you to upload your testing results from various tests and run reports as well as connect with other genealogists using DNA testing.

Organizing Research Materials – Digital

While computers and the Internet have been a boon to genealogy researchers, with more data come more headaches including how to keep it all organized!

Danger Ahead: The Digital Dark Ages

Which of these two items do you think is more in peril of being lost: An original photograph from 1950 OR a digital scan of that same photograph? While the printed version might be lost, or consumed in a fire or damaged in a flood, consider all these calamities that could befall your digital version:

  • Hard drive failure
  • Accidental deletion of file
  • Conversion from high-res TIFF file format to lower-res JPG format
  • File corruption
  • File format becomes obsolete
  • Storage on outdated media such as floppy disks
  • Over-correction of color and features using photo editing software

The truth is that there is no guarantee that TIFF or other file formats will even be around in 20 years. I’m sure that even with glasses, my eyes will always be able to see that 1950 photo! See Google’s Vint Cerf warns of ‘digital Dark Age’ for an overview of this pressing issue.

Pick a File Naming Convention and Stick With It!

There are many different ways to name your digital files used in genealogy research. Some prefer a numbering scheme while others begin with the surname. What about married female ancestors? (I ALWAYS use the surname with which they were born . . )

My method right now, and one that works for me is as follows: SLATTERY John Vincent b1888 WWI Draft Reg Card tells me, at first glance, that the file is a World War I draft registration card for John Vincent Slattery who was born in 1888. I add the “b _____” segment since I have many ancestors with the same name, such as John Austin.

This method is loosely based on one developed by a current Genealogy Do-Over participant, Diana Ritchie. Click here to read Diana’s original post in The Genealogy Do-Over Group on Facebook outlining her file naming convention.

Metadata Is Your Friend

What is metadata? It is “data about data” but there is an easier way to get genealogists interested. What if I told you that there was a way for you to add information about a digital image to the file – such as the subject, data, location and even a source citation – to the file so that it is always part of the file structure? That is what metadata can do.

What is metadata? Basically it is “data about data” but there is an easier way to get genealogists interested. What if I told you that there was a way for you to add information about a digital image to the file – such as the subject, data, location and even a source citation – to the file so that it is always part of the file structure? That is what metadata can do.

In the example above, I have entered my own text in the Title and Subject fields, added Tags and also placed my source citation in the Comments field (which holds 9,999 characters!)

You may not realize that metadata is already added to many of your digital files, especially when they are created. One example is a photo created with a digital camera or a smartphone. If you examine the metadata it will tell you the type of camera used to create the file, the file creation date, the resolution and sometimes even the GPS location of the photo.

So what about files that you’ve created, can you add and edit that metadata? Sure you can. An easier way to explain it is to watch a video recording of a webinar I presented called Metadata for Digital Images. Click here to watch now.

Once you’ve mastered the metadata concepts, consider adding important metadata to each of your genealogy research files!

Organize AND Backup Digital Materials

What good is spending hours organizing digital files if you don’t ensure their future accessibility? Every genealogist should have a data backup plan and also perform backups on a regular basis.

Try employing the 3-2-1 Rule:

  • 3 copies of each file. This means one primary copy, likely your hard drive, and then two other copies such as in the cloud and on an external hard drive.
  • 2 different media formats. Don’t store all copies on different hard drives or in different cloud platforms. Use different media such as hard drive, cloud, USB flash drive etc.
  • 1 offsite copy. This means do not copy files to a USB drive that you keep near your computer. Place it in a fire safe. Better yet, make sure one of your file copies is in the cloud which means it is not physically stored near the hard drive version.

Don’t forget that backing up on a regular schedule is important as well. In the genealogy community, the 1st day of each month is promoted as Data Backup Day and is a reminder to all genealogists to future proof their research data!

Month 10 To Do List – Full Do-Over Participants

  • New to DNA Genealogy: If you have not yet spent time learning about DNA genealogy, use some of the resources listed above and familiarize yourself with the various tests and terminology. Also, consider attending a DNA genealogy lecture at the next genealogy conference you attend.
  • Organizing Research Materials – Digital: Map out a file naming convention and also rename folders if necessary. In addition, don’t forget to have at least two forms of file backup! Most genealogists use a cloud platform such as Dropbox paired with an external hard drive or an automated backup site.

Month 10 To Do List – Review or “Go-Over” Participants

  • Currently Familiar with DNA Genealogy: If you have already completed one or more DNA test, make sure you are using all the possible tools at your disposal for interpreting results and connecting with others.
  • Organizing Research Materials – Digital: If you have not set aside your original research files and are still working with them, you will likely have the most work to do in terms of getting organized. Decide on a file naming convention and start using folders to group and sort items.

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.