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.

 

Welcome

Welcome to my first attempt at creating an online family history.  This is a long-term project.

After the birth of my first daughter a few years ago I acquired many boxes of papers, photos and items from my father’s basement filing cabinet.  It took weeks of rummaging through the contents to understand at a basic level just what I had.

One thing was immediately apparent: the first task had to be finding proper storage.  Some of the documents were on acidic paper and this was leaching into adjacent documents and photos (think that dark color and brittleness really old newspaper develops – very bad for documents you want to save).  Some boxes containing photos were of questionable quality for storage.  My answer was three ring binders and acid-free plastic sleeves for the vast majority of the papers and photographs.  After much time spent stuffing sleeves, I have twenty binders filled (in no particular order…yet), and at least two more boxes full of stuff to shove into sleeves and binders.

I intend to scan all of the documents and photos so they are preserved digitally.  I also need to enter the information from all these documents into my genealogy software, a rather tedious process.  I must admit I never did have a solid plan for how to proceed next.  I just picked a task that seemed interesting for my next step.  Things proceeded piecemeal for a while then my interest started to wane, and while I didn’t stop entirely progress slowed to a crawl.

In October daughter number two was born and the spark re-ignited.  This time I have a good start on things.  I also have a couple months’ worth of blogging experience under my belt and thought it would be an interesting idea to combine this with my genealogy hobby.

My plan for this site is to post family history information I have so the extended family will have a place to come read it any time they like.  I will post updates as I continue scanning and entering data.  There is some really interesting stuff hidden in all this material, and it seemed a real shame to leave it sitting on a shelf in my living room where almost nobody else would see it.

In the meantime, please look around.  Post your thoughts in a comment if you like.  If you have suggestions or ideas, please let me know.