Genealogy Do-Over – Week 13, Cycle 2: 26 June – 2 July 2015

The Genealogy Do-Over - Week 13 Topics: 1) Securing research data and 2) Reviewing the journey

Click here to download this article in PDF format.

[Editor’s note: Much of the text below is unchanged from the original Week 13 posting on March 27, 2015, except for my personal updates.]

Topics: 1) Securing research data and 2) Reviewing the journey

This is it: the final week of the Genealogy Do-Over. We wrap things up by discussing the best ways to preserve and secure our genealogy research and then review the 13-week journey.

The Genealogy Do-Over: Cycle 3

Do you feel you got a late start on the Genealogy Do-Over? Perhaps you didn’t find out about us until Week 6 or even Week 12? Or you just want to hop on for another ride? No matter your motivation, the Genealogy Do-Over will start again with Week 1 on Friday 3 July 2015. We’ll call this “Cycle 3” and it will run through Thursday 1 October 2015. Stay tuned right here for more information!

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Securing Research Data

Whether you are brand new to genealogy and the Genealogy Do-Over is your first serious effort at research OR you’ve 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. Sounds familiar . . . like one of the topics in Week 1 of the Genealogy Do-Over, right? 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 haven’t 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 some form of 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’ll 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.

  • What I Plan to Do: Right now I am very comfortable with my current data backup plan which follows the recommended 3-2-1 plan: 3 copies of my data, 2 different backup media and 1 offsite copy (cloud). In addition, I already have made provisions in my estate planning papers for the disposition of my genealogy research materials once I’ve passed on.
  • “All-In” and Modified Participant Options: Seriously consider creating an action plan for both backing up your genealogy research data and ensuring that it is preserved for future generations.

Reviewing the Journey

Wow . . . 13 weeks and didn’t it just seem to zoom by? I can’t speak for those who either participated in the Genealogy Do-Over or who just watched from the sidelines. I can, however, relate what I’ve learned and discovered during this cycle of the Genealogy Do-Over:

  • There is a need for change: Folks who have been doing genealogy for years and years have begun to realize that their early genealogy research may not provide the foundation that they want for a solid family tree.
  • No guilt, no shame, and no regrets: More importantly, we’ve had an honest discussion about our past practices and ways to improve them. With your input, we’ve created a “safe space” where anyone can admit they were a name collector or didn’t cite their sources.
  • Collaboration counts: Genealogists have always been collaborators; this is nothing new. In years past we would gather at society meetings and exchange information as well as research tips. We would attend conferences to improve our research knowledge and to network with others. Now with social media and groups such as the Genealogy Do-Over Facebook Group, we’re continuing the collaborative tradition. Remember this: very few of our ancestors arrived in a new place and could survive on their own. They counted on the wisdom and knowledge of those that arrived before them.
  • Honor and respect: I’ve also learned that genealogists are people (amazing, right?) We all have our quirks, our biases . . . we are human after all. Even with close to 8,000 members in the Facebook Group, we’ve managed to agree on many issues and yet disagree on how to approach them. Many people told me I was crazy to try and “supervise the sand box” and that doing so would just suck the life and energy out of me. It turned out that the opposite has been true: I’ve enjoyed the dialog and I’ve gained real insights as to what drives and motivates genealogists. There have been less than five times when I’ve had to delete a post or ban a member of the group for various reasons such as being rude or hijacking posts. I think this track record says quite a bit about the genealogy community.
  • A big thank you to the professionals: One of the most amazing aspects of the Genealogy Do-Over is how the concept has been embraced by various professional genealogists. And I don’t mean that they’ve “capitalized” on an active audience or tried to sell their own products and services to the crowd. Many of them have spent hours posting advice in the Facebook Group on citing sources, locating records, tracking research and more. In particular, Elizabeth Shown Mills has been a regular presence and I’m grateful for all her contributions.
  • Genealogy was meant to be fun: Have you had fun during the Genealogy Do-Over? I have and it has been due to the combination of energy and humor contributed by group members. Thanks to everyone who posted a funny cartoon or quotation. Thanks to those who were able to tell their funny and even most embarrassing stories about their early research. If genealogy isn’t fun, I just don’t think I’d be doing it.
  • A continual journey: And finally, I’ve come to realize that you just can’t do the Genealogy Do-Over in 13 weeks. No one can – not even me. When I created this program, I wanted something short and sweet and that would serve as a foundation for constant and continued improvement of genealogical research skills. I think that has been accomplished. I know that I will be working through the Genealogy Do-Over in Cycles 3 and 4. I also know some folks will take a break, perhaps take the summer off, and come back for Cycle 4. Just know that you are always welcome here and we’ll be waiting for you to hop back on board.

Once again, thank you for being a part of this amazing journey. Your participation, your input at the Facebook Group, your comments on live lectures and webinars and more – all of these have energized me and have made me even more committed to continue leading a discussion on improving genealogical research habits.

  • What I Plan to Do: I’m looking forward to Cycle 3 actually and here’s why: When I planned out the Genealogy Do-Over, I didn’t anticipate that “life” and its challenges could and would run interference against my best efforts. In these past 13 weeks I’ve had a lot on my plate in terms of speaking engagements and with the loss of my mother to Alzheimer’s Disease. But looking back, I realize that it is what it is and that I need a firm foundation of solid research habits to get me through the periods when I put research down and can’t pick it up again for weeks or months. For me, that is the true value in the Genealogy Do-Over.
  • “All-In” Participant Options: Evaluate how the Genealogy Do-Over has improved your research habits. Consider participating in Cycle 3 and focusing on those topics where you feel you still need improvement.
  • Modified Participant Options: Evaluate how the Genealogy Do-Over has improved your research habits even in a “review” perspective of your existing research.

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And that’s all I have for this week’s topic of the Genealogy Do-Over. For those of you who are stepping off the Genealogy Do-Over train now that we’re at the end of the ride, thank you for being part of this amazing experience.

Next Week: Week 1, Cycle 3: 3-9 July 2015

  • Setting Previous Research Aside
  • Preparing to Research
  • Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines

Thanks for being a part of the Genealogy Do-Over and your feedback is always appreciated. You can leave a comment on the blog post at GeneaBloggers, email me at or post at the Genealogy Do-Over Facebook Group.

©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Privacy and Our Ancestors: Hotel Visitors

100 years ago, it was common for newspapers to publish a list of visitors registered at local hotels. Do you really have less privacy today than your ancestors?

This past week, the United States Supreme Court declared a local ordinance in Los Angeles unconstitutional since it violated the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution (protection against unreasonable searches). What was the local law? The ability of law enforcement to demand inspection of a hotel’s guest register on demand and without probable cause or a warrant.

Genealogists and family historians who use historical newspapers as research resources already know that it was common for some communities to publish a list of hotel guests in the local newspaper. Seriously.

Source: "Hotel Arrivals", 24 July 1903, Los Angeles Herald, Vol. 30, No. 290, p. 7, col. 4, California Digital Newspaper Collection ( accessed 24 June 2015).

Source: “Hotel Arrivals”, 24 July 1903, Los Angeles Herald, Vol. 30, No. 290, p. 7, col. 4, California Digital Newspaper Collection ( accessed 24 June 2015).

These articles have great research value especially since they can help pinpoint the location of an ancestor in those “off year” periods between federal and state censuses. In addition, the articles will often state the marital status of a guest and even a wife’s first name.

In many communities, many residents believed there was a “right to know” who was visiting and where they were staying. I doubt in 2015 that you would see an Orlando, Florida newspaper announcing your arrival at a Disney World hotel; modern expectations of privacy are much different than they were 100 or even 50 years ago.

©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Genealogy Do-Over – Week 12, Cycle 2: 19-25 June 2015

The Genealogy Do-Over - Week 12 Topics: 1) Sharing research and 2) Reviewing research travel options

Click here to download this article in PDF format.

Previous topics in the Genealogy Do-Over:

[Editor’s note: Much of the text below is unchanged from the original Week 12 posting on March 20, 2015, except for my personal updates.]

Topics: 1) Sharing research and 2) Reviewing research travel options

As we enter Week 12 and cruise towards the end of the Genealogy Do-Over, we discuss sharing our research with others in the genealogy community as well as how to prepare for a research trip. The skills developed in both of these areas will serve you well as you progress with your genealogy research.

And remember that when the current Genealogy Do-Over cycle ends, on 2 July 2015, I’ll be restarting with Week 1 on Friday, 3 July 2015 and it will run through Thursday 1 October 2015.

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Sharing Research

Sharing your genealogy research with others should be a “no-brainer,” right? But if you’ve been doing genealogy for a number of years, you know that it isn’t 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 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.

  • What I Plan to Do: I’m big on sharing, and with the Genealogy Do-Over I am making it clear as to what is sourced genealogy research and unsourced. This may mean marking an entire tree on Ancestry as “unsourced” and include a disclaimer in any descriptive text. I don’t want to ever stop sharing, nor do I want to remove old trees, but I do want to make sure others can be confident in my research.
  • “All-In” Participant Options: If you have any trees or items you’ve shared prior to embarking on the Genealogy Do-Over, consider following the same course of “warning” others especially about unsourced information. Realize that you aren’t calling out your mistakes . . . you could even give a nice plug for the Genealogy Do-Over in your explanation!
  • Modified Participant Options: 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.

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 ( including Fort Wayne, Indiana (August 2015), Washington, DC (November 2015) and Salt Lake City, Utah (January 2016).American Ancestors (aka New England Historic Genealogical Society) offers organized research programs ( Upcoming events include Belfast, Northern Ireland (June 2015) and a Research Getaway (October 2015) at the NEHGS library in Boston.
  • 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. Professional genealogist Michael John Neill has organized a research trip to the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, July 29 to August 1, 2015 ( 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! Upcoming trips include the FGS 2015 Alaskan Cruise ( in late August 2015 and check out the many different cruises offered by Unlock the Past ( including the Baltic and Europe in 2015 and 2016.

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’ve planned all year for, only to find out that you have different “must haves” and “likes.”

BONUS: Free Webinar Recording – Family History Trippin’

Click here to view a free webinar recording on planning a genealogy research trip that I produced for Flip-Pal mobile scanner.

  • What I Plan to Do: I am actually taking some time off this summer and I plan on making some smaller research trips related to some of my brick walls! I prefer the “do-it-yourself” approach although later this year, in December 2015, I will be an instructor for the Salt Lake Christmas Tour!
  • “All-In” Participant Options: If you haven’t taken a research trip in a while, make sure that your 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!
  • Modified Participant Options: Although you’re “reviewing” your previous genealogy research, there should be no need to retrace your steps and revisit old research locations . . . unless you believe you’ll locate new items and make progress. Consider trying a sponsored research trip or heading out to a new locale!

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And that’s all I have for this week’s topic of the Genealogy Do-Over. Get ready for next week when we’ll discuss the best ways to share your genealogy research and also, how to prepare for a genealogy research trip!

Next Week: Week 13, Cycle 2 – 26 June – 2 July 2015

  • Securing Research Data
  • Reviewing The Journey

Thanks for being a part of the Genealogy Do-Over and your feedback is always appreciated. You can leave a comment on the blog post at GeneaBloggers, email me at or post at the Genealogy Do-Over Facebook Group.

©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.