Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Genealogical Crossroads

I enjoy learning about other people's resolutions.  As it turns out, quite a few people have had the "I'll start a new blog" resolution!  Quite a few are fellow genealogists, very exciting! I hope they will share their genealogical discoveries. Indeed, the demand for genealogical research is high.  Ancestry.com, for example, has over two million paid subscribers.  Wow!  I knew genealogy was popular, but this number is incredible.  I have been researching my family history for almost twenty years now, so I know how much contentment it can and will bring.  The amount of genealogical education available today is impressive, and much of it is free.  In future posts, I will share some of the better resources I have come across.

I have arrived at a genealogical crossroads of sorts.  My Gedcom file has over 2000 people in it.  However, I have reached that point where the alphabetical filing system I have been using is getting awkward and less efficient.    I have been doing some research on better genealogical organization.  There are some genealogists out there who have over 25,000 people in their Gedcom and yet manage to keep it all neatly organized.  And don't even get me started with photograph organization!  There is so much work to do.

With the realization that I need to come up with a new filing system is added to the fact that I have finally admitted that many of my past research practices were not up to par, I get a tad down.  In the past, I came across a lot of excellent information that I did not correctly cite.  I cannot find that information now and, therefore, cannot verify it.  On the bright side, I have learned I am hardly alone.  Many beginning genealogists do not correctly cite their sources and, like me, take too many years to develop the habit.  If there were one piece of advice I would give to the new family historian, it would be about source citation.  I admit that this was a hard habit to develop and was due, in large part, to my ignorance of proper citation standards for online materials.  I knew the traditional book and article format, but how do you cite a YouTube video? a Facebook comment? This blog posting?  Thankfully, I found an incredible reference for this very problem!  Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills.  She provides examples of over 300 citation formats!  This book is a slender volume, a hardcover of just 134 pages, which makes it easy to take with you on research trips.

So, what can I do in 2020 to get my research back on track?  I can do some weeding of all the paper files I have accumulated over the years.  Back in the late 1990s, I printed EVERYTHING.  Even with the instances when I remembered to have the web address printed along with the data, many times, the webpages no longer exist today, or the email is no longer valid.  When I was sorting earlier today, I had to laugh at some of it.  There was a time when I thought "user-submitted tree" was a reliable source if the amount of paper I wasted is any indication.  I think about all the new genealogists out there today and hope they don't spend time making the mistakes I made.  These mistakes will be addressed in future posts, and I hope they will be helpful.

My files are frustrating me so much that I almost feel like starting over from scratch.  As it turns out, many people have been inspired to do just that by Thomas MacEntee and his "genealogy do-over."   I appreciate his insistence on establishing good research practices first, before rushing into the records.  I am going to give this do-over a try.  This year I will improve my research skills, and that will be fun.

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