Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” It’s the time of year for making New Year’s Resolutions, and in this blog article Gena suggests three good resolutions for genealogists in 2015.
It’s almost time to ring in 2015! So what did you accomplish with your genealogy in 2014? What family stories did you tell? What places did you research? Any new family tree facts uncovered? Maybe you’re like me and wondering where 2014 went…
With the New Year soon approaching, it’s time to get serious about your family history. The perfect time to resolve to record your family history for the next generation is here. There’s no better time than now. Here are some ideas to get you started preserving your genealogical findings.
Photo: New Year ball drop event in New York City’s Times Square, 2012. Credit: Replytojain; Wikimedia Commons.
1) Resolve to Get Your Genealogy Finds Organized
Recently someone asked me to help with her genealogy. When I asked to see her pedigree chart she provided me with various scraps of paper, all with unsourced facts. Frankly, I have done the same thing in my research. The ancestor hunt is more exciting than stopping to properly document and organize what information is found. But it’s writing everything down in one place – fact, source, and comments – that you will be grateful for later on.
So today make the resolution to get rid of those scraps of paper and record all your genealogy information in one place. How will you record everything you find? Will it be by using a genealogy software package like RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree, or Family Tree Maker (just to name a few)? Will you use a note keeping program like Microsoft OneNote or Evernote, which would allow you access from any of your mobile devices? Will you go back to basics and simply use 3-ring binders, divider tabs, paper and forms? Decide which recording method you will actually use and then stick with it. Make sure you know how you will record each family fact you find during your genealogy research. How will you utilize your system away from home, at the library, archive, or family member’s home? Consider how you can use your smartphone or tablet’s capabilities to help you track and keep your genealogical findings in one place. Decide today and then skip the scraps.
2) Resolve to Learn Genealogy Research Methodologies
How can learning be a family history resolution? My experience has been that many brick walls are more easily knocked down by learning research methodologies. The more you learn about how to research and what’s available, the easier it is to solve those family mysteries.
So how do you learn more about genealogy? You can make a commitment to do more of what you are doing right now: read. The GenealogyBank Blog provides information about not only searching the GenealogyBank website, but tips to help you find success with your family history research in general. Use a RSS reader like Feedly or Flipboard to subscribe to this blog and others. RSS readers allow you to add the website addresses of your favorite blogs, and then they provide you a list of blog posts to read. Using a RSS reader and subscribing to RSS feeds is like putting together your own genealogy newspaper with articles on genealogy tips, resources, and more.
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Of course, you can learn more about genealogy in all kinds of ways. One suggestion might be the most surprising: research more. That’s right, spend some more hours researching. And don’t only focus on your family. Ask yourself a question about a famous or infamous person and then start looking it up in old newspapers like GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, or via Google Books. Take time to read old issues of your ancestor’s local newspaper for ideas about what was happening at that time, and the names of people in their community. Take some time to browse unindexed images in FamilySearch for your favorite state. I looked over 1930s death certificates from California and learned a lot about diseases, industrial accidents, nearby cemeteries and funeral homes, occupations, and more. That type of deep genealogy research can help you become more familiar with a resource, and in turn help you better solve your research questions.
3) Resolve to Free Your Family Photos
I can’t be the only one. You know who you are. You have great photos of family, ancestors, and documents – and they are trapped on storage cards, smartphones and even your computer. Sure it’s easy to take the family photo and save it somewhere, but not so easy to do something with it.
Let this be the year that you organize old family photos into folders, name individual photos, and then share, share, share. It really doesn’t matter how you share your photos: it can be on cloud storage websites like Dropbox, Microsoft One Drive or Sugar Synch; burn them to a CD; or save to flash drives. Just do it! Then once your pictures are saved to multiple places, share them with others. Give them to family, share to your website or blog, or make family tree scrapbooks. The more people you provide with your old family photos, the better. Consider putting together something for a local historical society, your genealogy society’s newsletter, or a town’s history project. That ensures that your family history survives long after a disaster occurs or you become an ancestor!
What will you resolve to do in 2015? Really, working on your family history shouldn’t be like a goal – such as losing weight – that’s often forgotten by many come Valentine’s Day. Family history is your passion; ensure that that passion will be felt long after you are gone.
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