A Do-Over? A Do-Over!

I decided it is time for a Do-Over.

When I started on this journey back in 2010 or so, I had a lot of data from my father and other family members. I went online, hunting and gathering records, meandering from document to document and person to person in a gloriously disorganized web-surfing expedition. It was so much fun. I found loads of all this cool stuff about “my” family. I realized I needed someplace to put this information, so I spent some time researching the “best” genealogy software to use, finally settling on The Master Genealogist (TMG). I ordered some books, read some blogs, and then started plugging all my data into my database. I thought a website to share my information would be a great thing to do, so I made a website using a fantastic tool, Second Site.

In 2014 the developer of TMG decided to throw in the towel and stopped development. My chosen genealogy software, while a great tool, had been given over to the user base for continuing support and was no longer being actively developed or updated. I stuck with it for a few more years, but gradually began to notice some things that I did not like. Nothing major, just some minor quirks that bothered me. Coupled with the fact that the official support and development channels were gone, I grew uneasy with continuing to use the program.

More recently, I spent time learning more about things like the Genealogical Proof Standard, proper research techniques, and types of analysis that I should be using. These were things I was not consistently applying to the documents I was collecting and the data I was entering into my database. Part of my issues here were procedural, but it was mostly just lack of knowledge and an assumption that what I was doing was good enough.

Now I have a much clearer idea of just how much I don’t know about genealogical and historical research. I am still learning about how to arrive at reasonable conclusions based on the information in my possession, but I feel as if I may now be near the lowest point on the so-called “valley of despair” on the Dunning-Kruger diagram of genealogical knowledge. It’s a great place to be when resetting one’s thinking on a subject, particularly one involving any sort of scholarly pursuit, though the prospect of climbing back out is a little daunting.

I was also starting to shift in my thinking about research goals. I was aimless in my collecting of information, mostly just documenting names, dates, and places. Something was missing: flavor, perspective, connection. Wouldn’t it be great to give some depth to those names, dates, and places?  Shouldn’t I also be adding the why and how to the who, what, and where? Why did that person move from New York to Illinois, and then to Michigan? What was going on in their life?

So I spent the last few weeks reorganizing my thoughts on what I want to accomplish, and how. I needed to come up with a way to filter through all I had, understanding what was good, what was bad, and documenting both. I needed a better set of tools to track not only my conclusions, but the steps I took to reach them. I needed to simplify some of the tedious things I was doing that were slowing me down and getting in the way of the end result. I needed to keep track of the things I had already done and the things I still need to do.

So today I am starting over. Brand new. Starting with myself and moving back in time. With the fresh start, I took the opportunity to move to a new piece of database software, RootsMagic. I have a new set of research processes I will be following with far less of the meandering sort of information gathering I was previously prone to doing. I set aside my old files for the moment, and am starting again with a fresh, clean slate. This time I have more focused goals, a plan to achieve them, and a much better idea of how to achieve good results.

I’m not throwing away what I have, just setting it off to the side so I can take things on from a new and more experienced perspective. I am not taking down my old tree from the website, but I will no longer be updating those pages. It may be some time before you see any family tree updates to this site. I hope to reward your patience with much better and more interesting results.