Introduction: In this article, Gena Philibert-Ortega shares some of the New Year’s genealogy resolutions she and her friends on Facebook have for 2018. Gena is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.”
It’s almost January 2018! The new year is about to begin and it’s time for some genealogy introspection. What will you do this year to enhance or expand your family history research? What will be different about how you do that research in 2018 versus 2017? What genealogy lessons did you learn in 2017 that you will be implementing in 2018?
In my article What Would You Take? Evacuating Your Genealogy in an Emergency, I described how deciding what to take with me as I evacuated from the recent California fires made me realize everything I had not done. I’ve long had a goal to document family heirlooms so that, should they be destroyed, we would at least have some remembrance of them. Previous to the evacuation my motivation was primarily so that, when I pass away, my descendants would know what is important to keep and what could be given away.
So, I know what genealogy goals I will be concentrating on in 2018 – but I wanted other ideas so I went to Facebook and asked my friends what their genealogy resolutions were for the New Year. As I read their replies to my question I noticed they seemed to follow a few themes. Their answers provided some great ideas about what we genealogists could all resolve to do in 2018.*
For the Next Generation
One worry that I hear from family historians is that their hard work and years of research will be thrown away once they are gone. On Facebook, many of my genealogy friends commented that they wanted to put their genealogy together for the next generation. Lisa Hork Gorrell summed it up best when she commented:
“Create something to share with your family to ensure your research lasts to the next generation.”
Obviously, there are many ways you can share your research with your family. One idea that I liked was from Jeff Teeter, a former Family History Center Director, who set up a “studio” in his home to record videos about his genealogy to give to his descendants. This is a great idea, and for many people video or audio recording is easier than writing a book. Today with the abundance of technology we have, recording can easily be done even with just your smartphone or mobile device.
So, what are some resolutions that could help you share your genealogy?
- Post old family photos to a private Pinterest board and invite family members to it.
- Create a Facebook page for an ancestor and post photos and stories. Invite others to do the same.
- Create reports using your genealogy software and provide them to family members.
- Take one event in the life of an ancestor, write about it, and share it with family. Examples might include World War I military service, a milestone event, or a house history.
- Start a blog about one family line and post research, charts, images, etc.
- Create a cookbook of old and current family recipes.
Just Do a Better Job
I really like what my friend Sandra Gardner Benward said in her reply:
“Just slow down for better documentation, better sourcing.”
I think most of us can relate to that. The research is fun – but the careful source documentation, not so much. Taking our time benefits our research.
Yolanda Campbell Lifter echoed a similar sentiment when describing her 2018 research focus:
“Concentrate on one surname a month: make sure all documents are cited, digitize those documents, have a checklist for each individual of what information I have and don’t have (and start obtaining the info I don’t have), and start writing mini-bios on some of these people.”
Some of the comments my post received focus on the actual genealogical research. We all need to think beyond familiar genealogical sources like the census. For example, archives are a great place to turn. Archivist Melissa LeMaster Barker said that her resolution is to:
“Dig deeper into those records that are on shelves at archives and not just online or microfilmed!”
It’s an important part of research that I always stress to audiences when I present genealogy talks, and it’s a perfect goal for 2018.
How Can You Improve Your Research in 2018?
- Start with one generation at a time and make sure you have all the documentation you should (vital records, census, military records, etc.).
- Cite all your sources.
- Create a genealogy education plan for 2018.
- Make plans to visit a new-to-you library or archive.
- Read the Genealogy 101 series on this blog, and spend some time researching the records discussed.
Organize and Digitize
For those of us who have been doing genealogy for decades or more, a large collection of photocopies is the result. My friends mentioned wanting to do something about these collections. Peggy Baldwin wrote:
“Scan, so I can get rid of some of my non-original document files. We’re downsizing and what I’ve got can’t go with us!!”
I can empathize. I recently realized that I have photocopies of book pages from trips that were over 20 years ago. I need to digitize these, and get rid of the excess paper.
I especially like what professional genealogist Peggy Clemens Lauritzen, AG said:
“I plan on reintroducing myself to my own library and files. I have spent a lot of time in libraries and archives this year, plus have downloaded tons of new files from Internet sites. But, in filing new information away, I have found that I already had it, or in some cases had something even better. My own personal library of books is phenomenal, and I need to use them more than I do.”
“This is one thing I challenge attendees to do whenever I speak at a conference. It’s easy to take the syllabus and the handouts and the vendor hall materials home, put them on a shelf, and forget about them until the same conference comes around next year. No! Go home and look at your materials while the information is still fresh, or you will wonder why you ever wrote it down or picked it up.”
Some organizing and digitizing ideas for your 2018 could include:
- Digitize photographs, photocopies, and genealogy records.
- Choose a cloud storage service and upload digitized genealogy to it.
- Purchase a backup storage device and upload digitized copies.
- Organize your paper files in a system that works for you. Consider purging photocopies (not original or hard-to-get records) that are digitized and backed up.
We Are All in This Together
While some genealogists were looking forward to concentrating on smashing brick walls, revisiting old research, or concentrating on a specific family line in the New Year, there were those who wanted to improve their skills so that they could help others with their family history. Genealogists like to share their knowledge, and many wanted to help others discover their family history. But beyond that were those who also wanted to make connections with their DNA matches to share their common family history.
Some ideas for 2018 resolutions:
- Take on a family history research question for a friend (this will also improve your research skills).
- Learn more about what to do with your DNA by watching webinars, reading articles, and attending lectures.
- Make it easier for potential cousins to find you by creating a blog or having a public profile on Facebook or another social media website.
Are You Ready for the New Year?
Every year I lament that it’s hard to believe how fast time passes – but the important thing to remember is time flies whether you make a resolution or not. Why not make some plans so that you feel like you have accomplished something with your genealogy when December 2018 rolls around? What are your genealogy resolutions for the New Year? Share them with us in the comments section below.
* I want to publicly thank all my Facebook friends who provided resolutions for this article. Direct comments are attributed in the article.