Happy New Year! Let’s Start Again in 2019!

Introduction: In this article – to celebrate the start of a new year – Gena Philibert-Ortega writes about her genealogy resolution for 2019. Gena is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.”

Happy New Year! Now let’s be frank. I’m willing to admit it: I failed miserably at my 2018 resolutions. Yes, I had the best of intentions but life got in the way and before I knew it, I was decorating a Christmas tree and staring at 2019 as it came hurling at me like a runaway train. So, no, I didn’t scan photos, organize, or much of anything else that I had planned to do with my genealogy in the last 12 months.

A comic strip about new year's resolutions, State newspaper article 18 February 2008
State (Columbia, South Carolina), 18 February 2008, page 12

What about Your Resolutions?

All of my goals and intentions were good but you know how it is. Most people break their resolutions – in fact, try Googling “why resolutions don’t work” and you’ll receive over 120,000 hits! There are so many articles on the subject that you could spend all of January reading articles about why you shouldn’t make resolutions. So, it’s no wonder my resolutions didn’t stick, but I’m not sure I want to end another year disappointing myself again.

How did your 2018 resolutions work out? If you accomplished everything or almost everything, congratulations! If not, it’s a new year, so let’s try this again. No, I don’t mean we should resolve to accomplish the same goals again (that train has passed). I want to take genealogical baby steps this year knowing in advance it will be another busy year.

My 2019 Genealogy Resolution

This year I want to do something that I noticed needed doing every time I accessed my genealogy database and public tree in 2018.* What I noticed was that I’m missing a lot of information and documents for the people in my more recent family.

It’s actually something I warn everyone about. Don’t neglect documenting your most recent generations! Start with yourself and work backward. All great advice – but as I look through my database, I keep questioning what went wrong.

I am missing basic information on some of my more current generations – family members I knew in real life but didn’t document as best as I could.

Are you in this boat? I look at my paternal grandparents’ information and realize that I don’t have their birth certificates. But then I find a marriage license for my maternal grandparents that I didn’t realize I had because I didn’t enter it into my software. Over and over again I realized that I either had stuff I didn’t remember having or I didn’t have documents or information that I really should. Or worse yet, there are facts I know I know but I can’t find the source citation: Which website did I find that on? Did I make that copy at the Family History Library?

So, What Do I Do?

I’m going to take this next year and update, document, and cite my first four generations (including me, yes, me). To do this, I’m:

  • Adding every document I have to my software program. Then I’ll scan and archive it away.
  • Re-search in databases including GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives for updated content.
  • Figure out what records need to be requested and what research trips need to be planned.
  • Write a narrative about that person’s life, add photos, and then put together the information for other family members.

And yes, I am adding me to this research plan. Why? Well, I have descendants that will one day want that information (I hope). Why not provide them with information that tells the story of my life from the best source?

Some of this work will ultimately help with the resolutions I failed to reach in 2018, like preserving information and photos in case of another fire evacuation. By making sure everything is updated and giving the information to family members, I help preserve it from any disaster that may befall my computer, or home, or me.

Now, I do have a caveat. I may not complete work on all four generations that I’ve set as a goal for 2019. As you know, each generation doubles and the 4th generation, my great-grandparents, requires research on eight people. That seems like it shouldn’t be a big deal, but some of that research is not available online and requires travel and time that may not be possible this year. I want to document them with the best sources possible and I want to know more about their lives beyond “just the facts, ma’am.”

Researching those eight great-grandparents may be more than I can accomplish in a year, but I can at least take care of a few great-grandparents. I’m also going to add information from informal interviews with my parents to get some clarity on questions I have about some of the people in my more recent family tree.

So, I’m starting at the beginning. I’ll be setting reminders on my iPhone and thinking about what time I can dedicate to working on my recent family history. What about you? What are you working on in 2019? What are your plans to ensure it gets done? I’d love to hear your genealogy plans for 2019 in the comments section below.

Good luck with your genealogy and Happy New Year!

* Genealogist Thomas MacEntee hosts a program teaching researcher how to do “genealogy do over” which acknowledges that we all make mistakes when we start researching and provides the assistance in correcting those mistakes. Learn more at https://abundantgenealogy.com/tag/genealogy-do-over/

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