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.

The Genealogy Do-Over Returns for 2017!

The Genealogy Do-Over returns again in 2016 using a monthly format for topics - here is the lineup. Are you ready to jump start your genealogy?

The Genealogy Do-Over 2016 Topics

The Genealogy Do-Over started in January 2015 as a weekly program lasting 13-weeks. In January 2016, the format switched to one using monthly topics. I’m pleased to announce that due to popular demand, we’ll be running another cycle of monthly topics for 2017 over at the The Genealogy Do-Over Facebook group.

The Genealogy Do-Over will start on Monday, 2 January 2017, with Month 1, and the topics will be Setting Previous Research Aside and Preparing to Research. Here is the complete list of monthly topics:

Genealogy Do-Over – Month 1

  • Setting Previous Research Aside
  • Preparing to Research

Genealogy Do-Over – Month 2

  • Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines
  • Setting Research Goals

Genealogy Do-Over – Month 3

  • Conducting Self Interview
  • Conducting Family Interviews

Genealogy Do-Over – Month 4

  • Tracking Research
  • Conducting Research

Genealogy Do-Over – Month 5

  • Citing Sources
  • Building a Research Toolbox

Genealogy Do-Over – Month 6

  • Evaluating Evidence
  • Reviewing Online Education Options

Genealogy Do-Over – Month 7

  • Reviewing Genealogy Database Software
  • Digitizing Photos and Documents

Genealogy Do-Over – Month 8

  • Conducting Collateral Research
  • Reviewing Offline Education Options

Genealogy Do-Over – Month 9

  • Conducting Cluster Research
  • Organizing Research Materials – Documents and Photos

Genealogy Do-Over – Month 10

  • Reviewing DNA Testing Options
  • Organizing Research Materials – Digital

Genealogy Do-Over – Month 11

  • Reviewing Social Media Options
  • Building a Research Network
  • Reviewing Research Travel Options

Genealogy Do-Over – Month 12

  • Sharing research
  • Securing research data

Join the Genealogy Do-Over Mailing List and Facebook Group

Want to be notified each month about the new topic as well as other updates involving the Genealogy Do-Over?  Click here to sign up for The Genealogy Do-Over Mailing List (you can unsubscribed at any time and we never sell or share our mailing list contact info!)

In addition, if you are on Facebook, click here to visit The Genealogy Do-Over Facebook group and click Join to work with over 12,000 other participants in various do-over discussions.

The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook

Here is a listing of chapters for The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook which is now available in three formats:  Print format for $6.99 (click here), Amazon Kindle format (click here) $2.99 and in PDF format (click here) for only $3.99. Get a jump start on your genealogy research for 2017 with the Genealogy Do-Over!

  • Introduction
  • The Golden Rules of Genealogy
  • The Genealogy Do-Over 2017 Monthly Topics
  • A Genealogy Go-Over Instead of a Do-Over
  • The Genealogy Do-Over for Genealogy Societies
  • Resources
  • Tools and Templates
  • Appendix

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

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.