Making a Change: Genealogy Goals for 2021

Introduction: In this article, Gena Philibert-Ortega gets ready for the New Year with some genealogy resolutions. Gena is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.

Tomorrow is the start of a new year, and you may be relieved to see 2020 fade into the sunset. The year 2020 didn’t turn out as any of us planned. Those genealogy good intentions were derailed by life. There never seems to be enough time to do the things we want to do. The pandemic ensured we were home more than usual, but it’s hard to concentrate when it feels like life is in constant chaos.

It’s a new year and it’s time to decide what you want to accomplish with your genealogy. Have you given much thought to your family history goals? I have a suggestion: Do something you’ve never done before!

2021: The Year of Something New

Last year, many of us had the “opportunity” to experience something that we weren’t prepared for: a pandemic. That meant we were faced with experiences such as illness, retail shortages, travel bans, and stay-at-home orders. Much of what we experienced was new to us and so we had to come up with new ways of accomplishing familiar tasks.

That experience got me thinking about my own family history research. What if we faced our research with a similar attitude? What about taking time this year to try something new with your research? Stop doing the “same old same old” and instead try something you’ve never tried before.

What’s the benefit of trying something new? Oftentimes, those brick walls or frustrations you’ve experienced are solved with the implementation of new methodologies, strategies, and resources.

What are some ideas for trying something new with your family history research? The following are some that I have found helpful.

  • Plan a trip (virtual or in person) to a library where your ancestor lived.
  • Learn more about an archive that has records for your ancestor’s community.
  • Leave a virtual trail for cousins to find you. Start a blog or a website, or post on social media.
  • Seek out images that help tell the story of your ancestor’s place and time.
  • Create a genealogy education plan and include articles, videos, and webinars that will benefit your research.
  • Read a book to research a specific record set or time period.
  • Take some time to try new-to-you features in your word processor, genealogy, or organization software.
  • Read some issues of your ancestor’s newspaper, cover to cover. Learn more about the articles that newspaper printed. See GenealogyBank’s list of newspapers to find the titles for your ancestor’s area.
  • Find a new way to share your genealogy with family members, either online or using paper copies.
  • Join a genealogy society where your ancestor lived.
  • Try a new-to-you website. Two places to find new websites are Cyndi’s List and Linkpendium.
  • Take a look at all of GenealogyBank’s collections in addition to the historical newspapers. You can search these collections separately (click on Collections at the website’s top toolbar for choices) or you can choose a collection from your search results list (see boxes at the top of the results list).

What Will You Try in 2021?

I’m a big fan of trying something new. I’ve been reading history books on time periods that I’m not as familiar with, and using the author’s bibliography and footnotes as a guide to new records. Genealogical brick walls can be successfully torn down when we implement a new strategy, search technique, or resource. Annual goals don’t have to be something you dread. Instead, they can simply be a new way of approaching your research.

What will you try that’s new in 2021?

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