Genealogy Do-Over – Month 2 – February 2017

The Genealogy Do-Over - Month 2 Topics: 1) Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines and 2) Setting Research Goals

Click here for a list of ALL The Genealogy Do-Over Topics for 2017.

Topics: 1) Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines and 2) Setting Research Goals

As we move into the second month of the Genealogy Do-Over, and since we’ve tackled the first week’s topics, I want you to take yourself back to when you first became interested in genealogy and family history. Were you a teenager like me who watched the mini-series Roots on television? Did you have a family history related assignment in high school or Sunday school? Or did you just hear others in your family discuss ancestors and you decided to do some research?

This month you are back at square one. Back where you started. But you have more knowledge and access to more tools than that first time. And you’re going to heed the same advice you would give any other newcomer to genealogy: start with yourself.

Sit down and record what you know about your own history (birth, marriage, children, religious rites and sacraments, etc.). Then move on to your parents and siblings. And once you’ve recorded information, you’ll set your initial research goals based on that information.

Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines

This topic offers lots of room for trying different approaches; however, most genealogists who have been researching for the past few years will likely have the same concerns and the same common practices.

I have already outlined many of my self-imposed guidelines in the Golden Rules of Genealogy. If I had to prioritize the areas and procedures, the list would include: 1) track all work, even dead ends, negative evidence and non-productive searches; 2) cite sources, even if in a rudimentary manner to note the “what, where and when” information about a record; 3) make the “first pass the only pass” which means slow down and spend as much time as needed on a document or source and wring every bit of information out of it. Later on in The Genealogy Do-Over process, I will have to decide on a file naming convention and a genealogy database software program.

Setting Research Goals

While I have listed this topic first in this month’s series of topics, you really need some initial data before you can set research goals. Very often people set goals such as “trace my family’s Irish roots” that are too broad or are based on family lore or assumptions.

Set goals based on information from personal knowledge; do not worry if you believe some information is incorrect. Next month we will create research goals to prove or disprove data points. Create a simple list such as “verify birth location for _________” or “determine parents of _________.” Next month these goals will form the start of your research plan.

Month 2 To Do List – Full Do-Over Participants

  • Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines: Do not gloss over this topic! Spend some serious time outlining what procedures you will use to research, both online and offline. If a process is too cumbersome, you will not stick with it. Come up with a list of five (5) top procedures that you can handle during The Genealogy Do-Over.
  • Setting Research Goals: Use paper, Evernote, OneNote, Microsoft Word or any program to track your research goals.

Month 2 To Do List – Review or “Go-Over” Participants

  • Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines: Review the procedures that other participants will be using; a good source is The Genealogy Do-Over resource page at If you feel you already have solid research procedures, keep using them. If you need to change your research habits, write down the changes and commit to them over the course of The Genealogy Do-Over.
  • Setting Research Goals: If you have existing lists of research goals, verify that they are in line with any family group sheet data. Create new goals based on new insights after reviewing the data.

©2017, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Oh Say Can You “C”? Navigating the Seven Cs of Genealogy

Are you navigating the themes of Clean, Collect, Curate, Create, Connect, Conserve and Continue into your genealogy research?

Oh Say Can You “C”? Navigating the Seven Cs of Genealogy

Lately, with the New Year upon us, I’ve been contemplating whether or not to adopt the usual “genealogy resolutions” such as “getting organized” etc. Since I started The Genealogy Do-Over in 2015, I’ve focused more on “themes” than actual resolutions. Themes don’t feel as constricting as making often unobtainable promises to myself.

I’ve developed a list of seven “themes” to guide me this year and hopefully I can institute these as general “rules to do genealogy by” over the next few years. I think the themes cover most areas of concern for every family historian, whether you’ve been at this for some time or you are just getting started.

  • Clean: Take inventory of what is in my genea-cave, get organized and make it easier to find what I need. This also means cleaning up and organizing digital files and folders as well as Internet favorites and bookmarks. Why should I spend time searching for stuff to get ready to research when I could better spend that time searching for ancestors?
  • Collect: Create a solid system for capturing information including digital images as well as paper-based document. Become disciplined in saving images and documents IMMEDIATELY and renaming the file to accurately describe the item. Work as if I only have “one pass” on using a source; wring out as much information as possible!
  • Curate: Review source material to see how it proves or disproves a fact. Write a source citation RIGHT AWAY and don’t put it off. Use proven evidence evaluation techniques to determine the reliability of the source. Document, document, document in my research log!
  • Create: Write a concise proof for specific facts as well as specific ancestral relationships. Write ancestor character sketches based on proven facts. Carry this info over to family history books, photo books, blog posts, calendars and other items to share with family members as well as other researchers.
  • Connect: Don’t become isolated especially with a dependency on online resources. Get out and connect with archives and repositories. Connect with other genealogists at conferences and institutes. Use online resources such as Facebook groups, DNA matching communities and more to keep connecting.
  • Conserve: Don’t forget to focus on preserving my work for future generations. This includes creating backup copies of data, scanning and digitizing images as well as videos, slides and audio tapes. Create a “successorship” plan so that a family member, another researcher or a genealogy society can inherit my work and carry the torch forward.
  • Continue: Basically the “rinse and repeat” cycle. Continue following the C’s especially when it comes to education. Stay on top of the latest technologies, apps and programs. Take time to build a reading list of journals and books related to my research. Attend a genealogy conference or online webinars.

Navigating the Genealogy Cs

The Genealogy Do-Over is one of the better ways to learn how to use the Genealogy Cs and incorporate the practices in your own research. Remember that we all approach our family history with different experiences and skill sets; what works for one researcher may not be the best fit for another. Working through The Genealogy Do-Over is a way of finding out the best navigation route for your genealogy research.

Click here to learn more about The Genealogy Do-Over for 2017 – it’s FREE and sign up today!

©2017, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.


Genealogy Do-Over – Month 1 – January 2017

The Genealogy Do-Over - Month 1 January 2017 Topics: 1) Setting Previous Research Aside, 2) Preparing to Research

Click here for a list of ALL The Genealogy Do-Over Topics for 2017.

Topics: 1) Setting Previous Research Aside, and 2) Preparing to Research

Before we review the Month 1 topics, I want to provide a little pep talk since many participants may feel discouraged and overwhelmed. Remember: while The Genealogy Do-Over is a project-based learning initiative to improve genealogy research skills, you should be having fun. You should look forward to trying new approaches each month.

  • “When are we going to start research?” has been a common question during The Genealogy Do-Over. Some participants wanted to dive right in and get online and look for stuff. My belief is that we need to lay a firm foundation and take our time before we set out on our search. A solid base of goals, procedure and tools will carry us through to the end and should not be improvised as we go along.
  • “There’s too much information; I’m drowning!” is also something I see posted on The Genealogy Do-Over Facebook Group. That is why you are here at The Genealogy Do-Over: to gain skills to better manage the flood of data. Keep in mind that Big Data is something we as genealogists will continue to deal with in the future and the amount of data increases each month and each year. Learn to work smarter and determine the best data for your research.

Finally, remember that what I have put together for The Genealogy Do-Over is based on my discoveries in changing my research habits over the past year. Your mileage may vary which means that what works for me might not necessarily work for you. Feel free to make changes to the program by using different tools and different procedures. Just be true to your Base Practices and Guidelines (we will cover this next month) and we will all likely arrive at the same destination: better genealogical research.

Setting Previous Research Aside

For many participants in The Genealogy Do-Over this can be the most difficult step in the entire journey: breaking with previous research materials and with previous practices. Remember that how you decide to “break up” with your research is your decision. Here are some guidelines:

  • Binders, folders and papers: If it is not feasible to set them aside, you will need to be on your best behavior and resist the temptation to automatically consult these items.
  • Reserving specific items: It makes no sense whatsoever to spend money (and waiting time) on records that you acquired previously. Make sure they are easily accessible and, when using them, you only refer to the actual data in the record . . . and do not look at any post it notes or notes you have written in the margins.
  • Digital holdings: These files are the easiest to handle and move to a holding area, but at the same time their ease-of-access make them prime candidates for a “research crutch.” Do not be tempted to go back to old research in these online files, if possible. Trust in the process and that starting from scratch and looking at records from a new perspective will bring success in your research.

Easy-peasy, right? More like “easier said than done” . . .

When I started doing my own genealogy research over again, I moved all my paper files into banker’s boxes (a cardboard box used for document storage). I did hold on to several paper copies of vital records as well as some photos. In addition, I placed all digital files into a HOLD folder that, I am proud to say, I was not tempted to use!

Preparing to Research

It may sound odd for many of us to do “prep work” before researching. However, I found that if I took time to prepare my workspace and my mind for research, I had much better results.

For me, this means I will no longer research at 2:00 am if I am tired or half-asleep. It also means that I will no longer say to myself, “Oh I have 15 minutes before the roast in the oven is done, I’ll look for Grandpa some more.” One of my biggest problems in the past was not starting or finishing the research process properly. Moreover, the finish turned out to be just as important for me: with a good ending to a research session, I would know exactly where to pick up the next time I started.

So over the next month, think about how you have researched in the past in terms of time, location, tools used, etc. Consider making some changes. Write down some research “warm up” exercises and try them once we get to the research phase. Make a list of items that you must have available when you are researching (a copy of Evidence Explained, a spiral notebook, your copy of Evernote open on screen, etc.).

Month 1 To Do List – Full Do-Over Participants

  • Setting Previous Research Aside: If you are sitting on a considerable amount of paper files and binders, try to sort through them and quickly pull those records that took considerable time, effort and money to order or collect. Another option is to simply put everything aside and then when you reach a point in your research where they are needed, place the task of locating that record on your To Do list. For digital files, try the same approach of moving them to a HOLD area. If you do not feel confident in your tech skills (and fear losing items or causing an error with your database software), simply commit yourself to not accessing these files unless absolutely necessary.
  • Preparing to Research: Think about how you have researched in the past in terms of time, location, tools used, etc. Consider making some changes. Write down some research “warm up” exercises and try them once we get to the research phase. Make a list of items that you must have available when you are researching (a copy of Evidence Explained, a spiral notebook, your copy of Evernote open on screen, etc.)

Month 1 To Do List – Review or “Go-Over” Participants

  • Setting Previous Research Aside: Work on organizing files, both digital and paper. Then locate essential documents that prove a relationship and either set them aside for future review or create an index . . . sort of like a Top 20 or Top 50 Document list.
  • Preparing to Research: Make a list of you current research habits including when you research (time of day or week), the processes you use, etc. Review your list and determine if there are areas you would like to improve.

©2017, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.