New Year’s Resolutions for Genealogy

Introduction: In this article, Mary Harrell-Sesniak presents ideas genealogists may want to consider for their New Year’s Genealogy Resolutions for 2020. Mary is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background.

It’s that time of year again when we take stock of the past and make resolutions for the future. Some of the most important ones are for genealogy – but first, I’d like to thank GenealogyBank for the privilege of writing for them all these years. GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives continue to evolve and I’m never disappointed at discovering new finds!

In addition, I’d like to express my appreciation to our readers and followers who keep blog writing very enjoyable. Your comments are interesting and often include tips for others. Please keep them coming!

So, in that light, here are some of my genealogy resolutions for 2020!

Illustration: New Year's Greeting

  • First on my list is to revisit old habits – not just your own but those of your ancestors. What does this mean? Yes, continue to use social media, but try calling or sending queries in the mail. Just in case something ends up in spam or the person you are contacting is overwhelmed by email, you increase your chances to get a response!
  • Don’t send attachments without warning or without invitation. The “netiquette” is to send an advance email asking if someone wishes you to send an attachment. If you must send one, send a short email explaining what will be forthcoming.
  • Do respect the time of others by avoiding communications over the holidays, and not inundating others with updates.
  • Additionally, treat email like a short tweet on twitter. Nobody needs a tome to read when a well-edited note will suffice.
  • Follow the PIF (pay it forward) concept, so please don’t ask for help unless you are willing to reciprocate. Always offer in advance to share finds.
  • Consider including a monetary gift for fellow researchers and organizations. Many people can’t make ends meet and would be grateful for any help.
  • Set up at least two new email accounts. Transition “close” friends and family to one and use the other for genealogy news such as from GenealogyBank. Since the existing one is probably very public, keep it for everything else.
Related:  Allen County Library (IN) receives $10 Million Gift

Illustration: Happy New Year

  • Clean out and organize your old emails. Set up specific folders for genealogy projects and delete trivial correspondence. You can click on column headings and sort by sender or topic and then drag them into the appropriate folders. If you don’t know how to do this, consider hiring a younger family member to do this or even teach you!
  • Share what you have! We all have something unique in our personal archives, whether it is an old family photo or letter – so make copies, transcribe, or even better get it digitized and attached to something online.
  • Update your will by deciding what is going to happen to your precious research – but first, sit down and have an honest conversation with friends and family. Is there a future genealogist in the family – and if there is, how much space can they dedicate to storage?
  • It’s not enough to ask that someone makes a backup, as backups get discarded – and as technology changes, they become unreadable.
  • If you can’t decide what happens, treat your research like an inheritance! One idea is to divide your estate into shares for family + one for genealogy. This gen-heir share should go to someone who appreciates your love of genealogy, whether it is a family member or an institution:
  1. To make this a priority, consider specifying that the funds in your estate be disbursed first to pay for digitizing, organizing, and preservation costs for your research.
  2. Decide on how to dispose of unwanted items, such as books, photographs and other materials. Create a list of family members, researchers, archives and/or libraries to be contacted. Some may not want your items, so do a little research in advance.
  3. If you don’t mind your books being sold, look up prices on bookseller websites and consider tucking printouts into the front covers. This will at the very least appeal to heirs who might not realize the books’ value.
  4. Any money that’s left over could go to a GenealogyBank subscription for the family historian or genealogical institution of your choice!
  • Lastly, let’s not forget to publish before you perish! Put your genealogy into book form with a cover and a copyright page so that if it ends up at the local donation center, another genealogist will surely find it and treasure it!
Related:  Maryland Archives: 215 Newspapers for Genealogy Research

On that note, I’m happy to say that I’ve just released a book based upon my popular GenealogyBank humor articles.

Where There’s a Will, There’s Always a Genealogist! is a compilation of previously unpublished historical and modern quips for genealogy. Available at and other popular online booksellers.

Photo: cover of Mary Harrell-Sesniak's book

Happy New Year and Best Wishes for Happy Hunting in the New Year!

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