Lessons Learned Along the Way
Ah, the blossom of youth, the eagerness of starting out, the tireless desire to collect more and more information……
I remember those first days of my genealogy research, thirty years ago. I should say WASTED first days. No direction. No Plan. No rhyme or reason. Just collecting.
Does this article mention John Brown? Great copy it and throw it in the folder. This website has pages of information? Great copy and past and print out. Look! a picture of John Brown! What a find! Copy it NOW! It is in a book (or in a newspaper) so it has to be TRUE, right!?!
Ah, the ignorance of youth is staggering when reviewed from the 50 year mark. I really had no idea what I was doing, how to do it logically or systematically. I just copied information and typed it into my Family Tree Software. I didn’t need to do citations, I would remember where all my information came from. This date doesn’t agree with the other one in my file, who cares! I’m amassing data and doing such a fantastic job! Look at ME!
Look more papers. Add them to the pile, I will file when I have time. HMMM I KNOW I have a piece of paper with that information on it. Let’s see it should be in (EENY, MINEY, MOE) this pile. Nope, well keep digging you will find it in one of the piles. I wasted hours looking for things when I needed them.
I heard about a “Research Log” but convinced myself that I didn’t need one, I would know if I had looked in a repository before, wouldn’t I?
What a Mess
With Age Comes Wisdom
I was overwhelmed and confused. How do all the other genealogists keep up with all this stuff and track different dates, etc.
I stopped and learned my Family Tree Software; I read books, I took seminars, I watched YouTube Videos, I joined user groups and genealogy interest groups. I shut up and sat still and listened to those who were smarter and more organized.
I learned why and how to use a Research log; how to set up timelines and review for missing information; how to set up indexed files; how to handle conflicting information. I learned to slow down and do it right if not the first time, then during the “Do-Over.”
Last year I put a hold on collecting and researching and focused on creating an indexed file system. I indexed/filed every piece of paper, every photo, every book, every collectible I own. If I need to find the articles about the graves at the Pennsylvania Tannery, I now do a search in my Excel index report and find them in seconds, not hours.
Genealogy Software is difficult. It is amazing, and tracks everything, but not always intuitive. I have used Legacy Family Tree for 20+ years and still learn new tricks and tips. Geoffrey D. Rasmussen and Thomas MacEntee as household names in my home. Every time I interact with them, or read an article they authored, I learn something new. My husband is sick of hearing “Thomas says I should do it this way.”
I am now in the “Do-Over” stage. My papers may be filed, but I still have to organize my on-line (soft) resources and correct the entries in my LFT software. I am doing this in between writing articles and working on my book. I am learning how to take productive and detailed notes on index cards from my research – but that is another post.
What Words of Wisdom Would I Send Back
Take your time. Learn, really learn the software inside and out. Document as you go. Believe nothing until proven. Keep a Research log so you know where you have been. Look for neighbors, family members and others in census reports. Not everything is on line or at your local library.
Just because John Brown is famous, doesn’t mean the previous research is complete or even accurate, dig deeper. Have fun. Take time to enjoy what you are learning and discovering.
Oh yeah – and buy stock in Apple!
What words of wisdom would you share with your younger self just starting out in genealogy? Share below in comments.