It has been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything about my participation in Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over. That is because it has been keeping me so busy, that I have not been able to drag myself away to post an update about my progress. But I wanted to take the time to
write gush about how this has been such an eye-opening and re-vitalizing experience this has been for me
First of all, I had realized that I had some of the holes my research and documentation when I started back in 1990. Documents concerning information on my own grandparents are a perfect example. I’m sure my mindset back then was, “Well, I knew Grandmom, I know what dates she was born, I have copies of her death certificate and marriage certificate. All the spaces are filled in on the family group sheet. I can move on.” However, when I looked at Grandmom’s death certificate, and began to ANALYZE the information on there, I discovered something that could potentially baffle any future researchers. I remember that my grandmother died in Virginia, where she was living with my aunt. She was cremated, and my aunt and her uncle drove her ashes up to my hometown in Pennsylvania, so that she could be buried alongside her parents in the family plot. I was there for the memorial service and I also remember visiting the cemetery once and seeing where she was buried. However, her death certificate from Virginia does not indicate any burial for her, since she was cremated. If a future researcher saw this death certificate, they would never know that her ashes were then actually buried in Pennsylvania. So, I knew that I would need to get some documentation to support my firsthand knowledge. So on my to-do list for my next trip to Pennsylvania, will be to stop at the cemetery office for information on her burial, get a photo of her headstone (which I never, ever had) and also stop at the library to get a copy of her obituary, because I had never had a copy of that either.
I had also discovered that there was a discrepancy in the date of birth of my great grandfather. I had always had his birthdate as April 16, 1882, because that was what was stated on his death certificate. However, on a church baptism record that I had found on Ancestry.com, his date of birth was listed as April 25, 1882. However, his baptism took place 2 years after his birth. So, coming to a conclusion as to what his true birthdate is, will need more analysis. And, truth is, I may never find certain proof that one date is the true date over the other.
Analyzing each document is probably the biggest change for me. I use Family Tree Maker as my base for keeping all my data. In addition to properly citing the source within the program, I’ve also learned to utilize the “Notes” feature more within the program to transcribe the information of each source I find. This was a tip that I had picked up from watching a youtube video by Crista Cowan of Ancestry. I cannot begin to tell you how eye-opening that has been. I think I’ve discovered new, little facts that I have not noticed before, for ancestors that I had felt I had all bases covered.
I’ve also decided to take on learning Evernote as a support tool for my research. As I mentioned, I use Family Tree Maker as my primary tool to keep all my family research data in. However, I feel that I also need a research log and correspondence log, just so I can keep track of what I had researched already, and who and where I had written to to get church records, court records, etc. This was something I had actually started doing back when I first started in 1990, however I wrote them on paper log sheets that I had purchased from Ancestry back in the early 90s, before they even had records online. But, I wanted to start keeping online logs, because I felt there wasn’t much room on the paper ones for notes. I tried to utilize the “task list” on Family Tree Maker, but I felt that feature wasn’t working for me like I had wanted it to do. I was inspired to try Evernote after attending a genealogy conference back in March. I found some templates online, and used those to craft my own. I am so far happy with the results. I also use Evernote to create my research plans.
I just want to note that I use Evernote as support, and it is by no means what I use to store my family history. I just use it to keep track of when and where I got my information as well as places I had searched and did not find a single thing. It helps me to not only know to not look at that place again, but also helps me when I cite my sources. I also know that many people are not familiar with computers and learning a new software program is very intimidating. There is nothing wrong with keeping track of such things on paper sheets. There are many sites where you can download those for free. The whole point is that you are keeping track of where and when you are getting your information from. Just do it the way you feel most comfortable doing!
One of the points covered in Thomas’ blog for week 6 is Online Education options. I have been looking into these before this week. There is so much out there and so much material covered. I will typically listen to a podcast or just listen to a youtube video while I’m at work. They’re always easy to stop and back up again if you find yourself interrupted or you just want to listen to one part again. I highly recommend Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems podcast, Ancestry’s Crista Cowan’s Barefoot Genealogist on YouTube, and DearMyrtle on YouTube. In fact, YouTube.com, in general, has a WEALTH of information on there if you do a search for “genealogy.”
I also recommend checking out your local genealogy and/or historical society. Last winter, I had felt like I was in a rut with my research and felt I needed new tactics. I discovered the Wisconsin State Genealogical Society’s website and was pleased to find that they were having a conference in Madison, WI, where I live. I attended in March, and it was definitely worth the time and money. It was exactly what I needed to get out of my rut. Not only do you benefit from great speakers, but you can meet other genealogists and talk to them about methods, strategies and just genealogy in general. In fact, it was there that I had learned about Genealogy Do-Over.
Since then, I had also bought a membership to the society, where they hold free live webinars once a month (last month Thomas was the featured speaker), and members have access to previously held ones. So, my plan is to keep continuing to educate myself on the genealogy proof standard, analyzing evidence and citing my sources through the online sources I had discovered in the past few months, as well as a few new ones that were listed in Week 6’s blog post.