Saturday, January 26, 2008

Give it your all

My daughters are into crafting beaded jewelery. It's more than a hobby -- it's an obsession. They know every type of spacer, glass & focus bead and have accumulated an impressive collection of findings (I just call them clasps). They have an inventory of chains, head pins and wire in sterling, 14k gold, gun metal, copper, and pewter. They understand which projects would best be done using silk thread or "fire-something" fishing line. Now that they are selling their creations, they've learned where to get the best prices from national wholesale distributors. They recently found a buyer who travels overseas, and have commissioned him to bring certain unusual items from Asia and India.

Contrast that with Ol' Myrt here who loves to purchase jewelery. I know I am a platinum and diamond sort of girl with conservative taste (and an even more conservative budget). Yet, I know how to plunk down my plastic to make that latest bauble my own.

Why should genealogists be any different than my daughters who are giving it their all?

Shouldn't you look past the quick-fix PURCHASE of your family history?

My daughters didn't know all the answers when they started, and neither do good genealogists. It takes time to become conversant with the tools of the trade.

Most hobbiest totally immerse themselves in the culture of their craft (stamp collecting and model trains come to mind). Why do people doing genealogy think they can get it all done back to the 1500s with just a few mouse clicks?

DearREADERS, this is going to be the year you get it all together. I KNOW you are willing or you wouldn't keep reading my blog. But, you won't get brownie points with your ancestors just for reading this column -- you must take action.

So it is time to get off the pot and become real genealogists. Quit spinning your wheels.
  1. Get that computer system working -- no more limping along. Dell has some great models, and they've partnered with Walmart for even better price breaks. Consider a Mac, Dick Eastman caved, and it didn't take much convincing.
  2. Upgrade to high speed if necessary. (I am hereby giving you official permission.)
  3. If that scanner hasn't worked for 3 years, it is time to get a new one. You'll be scanning those paper copies of proof documents before long.
  4. Find the best genealogy management program to meet your needs.
  5. Update supplies including fresh boxes of acid-free top-loading sheet protectors, file folders, etc.
  6. Pick up that 1GIG Flash drive. Better yet, how about a 4GIG, so you can carry your data, and record scanned images of source documents next time you visit your local Family History Centers.
  7. Speaking of Family History Centers, remember volunteers need your praise for keeping the doors open. The volunteer on shift when you arrive might not know how to help with your outer Mongolian research, but FHCs are an easy access point to over 3 million rolls of microfilm from 120 countries throughout the world.
  8. Schedule participation in at least three regional or national genealogical conferences this year. Suggestions for US & Canada residents include:
    Brigham Young University - Genealogy Major
    BYU Independent Study - Distance Education Courses - Online Learning
    BYU Conferences and Workshops - Family History and Genealogy
    FGS - Federation of Genealogical Societies
    local genealogical & historical society annual seminars
    MyAncestorsFound Expos
    NARA Regional Workshops
    NARA Know Your Records Series
    NGS - National Genealogical Society
    National Institute for Genealogical Studies (correspondence)
    New England Historic Genealogical Society
    Salt Lake Institute (UGA)
    Sam ford University - Institute of Genealogy & Historical Research
    UW Extension - Genealogy and Family History Certificate Program
  9. Study research outlines produced by the Family History Library for the places where your ancestors once lived. (You'll spend 30% of your time here.)
  10. Expand your software library to include:
    GenSmarts (to help figure out which resources to turn to next)
    Gene Lines or other timeline software.
    Mapping software like Ani-Map, Map Your Family Tree, & Family Atlas
    Medical family history software like GeneWeaver
    Better photo editing software like Adobe Photo Shop or Paint Shop Pro. You've got the old photos to repair, in addition to keeping up with the current generations.
  11. Calendar 1 week each month to peruse free access to the following reputable online genealogy resources before deciding to purchase membership: (British Isles) (Swedish)
  12. Join like-minded researchers by subscribing to several RootsWeb genealogy mailing lists for the surname or locality where your ancestors once lived. (They're free.)
  13. Write 15 minutes each week to painlessly compile your personal history using software like Personal Historian or Life Journal.
  14. Document family heirlooms (monocle, roll top desk, lace collar, family bible, teacup, broach, pickle crock) by taking a digital photo and typing up the history. Include this info in an email report to all known family members. Be sure to update your genealogy software to include the info by attaching it to the appropriate ancestor.
  15. Share your heirloom & ancestor stories with and/or
  16. Obtain catalogs & register for email flyers from genealogy book publishers like Ancestry, Avotaynu (Jewish), Genealogical Publishing, Heritage Books, Higginson Books & Southern Historical Press
  17. Figure out how to use movie editing software or slide-show software to produce family history CDs to share with your siblings & cousins.


A friend likes to point out there is a difference between merely "doing genealogy" and "being a genealogist". In my book, it is a matter of organization and dedication.

Family history isn't just throwing together a book you put on the coffee table to look at on Sunday afternoon. It is a quest to prove family relationships with the added bonus of putting each ancestor's life in historical perspective. I love getting to know the life & times of that US Civil War widow or Lincolnshire serf on my family tree.

Don't you?

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

© 2008 Pat Richley, All Rights Reserved.

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