Monday, January 2, 2017

Genealogy (Do-Over) Go-Over 2017 — Blog 1 January Goals

I was an active participant in the Genealogy Do-Over during all four quarters of 2015 (the first year). I had expected to continue working with the group in 2016, but ill-health interfered with me throughout the year. About the only thing I accomplished in 2016 was to purchase and to download my electronic copy of the Genealogy Do-Over Workbook.

Last month I began thinking about following the group again during 2017. I felt I could safely review my 2015 experiences without getting ahead of myself. I found the workbook in my files, studied the introduction and the entry for Month One. I am engaging in a Go-Over rather than a complete Do-Over, which is basically what I have been doing since I started these activities two years ago.

Month One has two activities. The remainder of this blog addressed the first of these as noted in the workbook: "Work on organizing files, both digital and paper. Then locate essential documents that prove a relationship, and either set them aside or provide an Index … sort of like a Top 20 or Top 50 list."

I reviewed the steps I had taken in 2015 and found them to be basically sound. I could locate my data; my planning and my research records are easily found and understood. I anticipate changes (refinements) as I use these documents. If these changes don't develop, I will know that I have stopped growing. But since these changes will probably be refinements, rather than major changes in plans, they will become part of my ongoing genealogy activities, rather than something I need to address in Month One.

I will mention this blog to the Do-Over group on Facebook. I would like to have your feedback — either on Facebook or directly to the blog. Do I sound like I have made a reasonable and considered assessment? Or do I sound smug. (I am quite serious about the smugness. My mother NEVER needed to change and grow, she had decided about life and everything else should bow before her decisions  — including the weather! I began fighting this, as soon as I recognized this trait in her; but early example is the hardest life lesson to change!)

I am hoping I have met the goals in Activity One. I am going to need all the time I can find for Activity Two.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Clutter and My "Philosophy" of Organization

As the name of this blog implies, I tend to focus on Genealogy, but just now I am concerned with organization throughout the entire household. In the first weeks of 2016, I have found discussions of organization outside the genealogy community as well as within it, so I will be doing some immediate blogs on household organization with occasional followups as I work my way throughout our house.

Clutter — What IS Clutter?

"A place for everything and everything in its place"; this New England saying provides a definition of clutter — because clutter is a mess of things that A) have no place or B) are never kept in their places.

Therefore, to remove clutter you need to find a place for everything AND you also need to discover why things don't get returned to their places. This statement is the essential base of my "Philosophy" of Organization — the background to all my thoughts, plans, and achievements in organization.

There was an important difference between organization and neatness. While neatness is admirable it isn't always possible nor desirable. The picture above is (in my opinion) a picture of organization, not a picture of clutter. It is NOT neat, but it is organized and it has stayed organized for 2-1/2 weeks.

I'm 88 years old — my husband is 71 (yes I robbed the cradle); when people reach those ages, they require lots of medicine. This picture shows the extension leaf of our dining table. It shows the toaster; a tray of medical supples arranged as hers, ours, and his; other medical supples; plus our snacks, hers and his. "Hers" are near my side of the table and "His" (closest in this photo) are near my husband's side. All of these items are frequently reached for; from daily to weekly use. If the storage place were less accessible, the items would not be returned to their places. In fact, that is why most of the items are in this spot. I added the medicine containers we use to load our "daily dosages," a weekly job that kept needing to be cleaned up after. Every item in this picture is used and is promptly returned its place.

As an added bonus, the tray and the remaining items may be quickly moved to temporary storage whenever the entire table is required for serving company, then returned to the table when we return to our daily living patterns.

I've given the background.  In a day or so, I will introduce you to the five tenets of this 'philosophy of organization."

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Confession Time (or why this blog is overdue)

I have a hobby; it is addictive and time-consuming, full of many details. Sometimes it can take days to get all the details in place or to correct mistakes.

No! NOT genealogy — I’m talking about my other hobby — counted embroideries. Twice a year, stitchers from Nebraska and Iowa (with stray members from other places such as Missouri) meet at the Northeastern Nebraska 4H Camp for 3 to 4 days of stitching. Health reasons had caused me to miss the last three of those meetings. I said I would get to the meeting this March even if I went on a stretcher.

The stretcher was avoided, I went and had a great time meeting friends of more than 10 years standing, and making new friends. No stretcher was needed, but the trip did use more energy than I had expected, so I needed time to rebuild me energies. My computer accompanied me to the stitch-in, as it has each time I have attended (I have stitching programs as well as genealogy programs), so I was able to check in with the Genealogy Do-Over, but there was little energy for true participation in the Do-Over.

I could continue blogging for a bit about the stitchery, but this is a genealogy-centered blog.  So, in spite of some weak participation in the final weeks of the Do-Over, Round 1, here are my experiences during Weeks 11 and 12 (and an observation about Week 13).

Week 11 - Goal 1: Reviewing Social Media.

My first reaction to "Reviewing Social Media" was that I do a lot of genealogy research and genealogy study through Facebook: Genealogy Do-Over, The Organized Genealogist, Technology for Genealogy, Evernote Genealogists, and so on; as well as groups such as Jefferson County MO Genealogy, North Carolina Genealogy, and Dutch Genealogy where I can ask questions about specific family areas and events.

I was content with this attitude until March 18 (the day before the start of the stitch-in). Dawn Williams-Kogutwiewicz posted in her “Dawning Genealogy” blog about Week 18. I was SO WRONG in my assumptions. Dawn investigated sources in a manner I hadn’t thought of — and she reminded me of a source I once depended on, but that I hadn’t used recently. I have a lot of work to do about Social Networking. Thank you, Dawn!! (I did post an immediate thank you; this type of shared research cannot be praised too often, so I am repeating the thank you.)

Week 11 - Goal 2: Building a Research Network.

My first reading of this concept doesn’t resonate with me. This is one of the few areas that Thomas has presented that I need to ponder a while before I can make it my own. More on that to come in my next blog concerning Week 13 — Reviewing the Journey.

Week 12 -Goal 1: Sharing Research.

I agree with Thomas’ ideas on the topic; I seem to be living up to his standards fairly well. I have met with my share of “no responses” but my usual result when sharing is an interesting exchange of information where both sides benefit. I need to improve my follow-up skills in these exchanges with fellow researchers.

[Note to Self: Be SURE to include shared research exchanges in the research logs. Research logs make note of where you’ve been and what you’ve found — when your second cousin five times removed sends you information about the emigrant journey from the Netherlands to St. Louis and Illinois, the exchange should be included in the research log; the relationship between you and the other searcher should be clarified (the five times removed is a guess) and other pertinent information should be included. Reviewing the research log will serve to remind you when further contact is required.]

Week 12 - Goal 2: Reviewing Travel Options.

I need to study this more thoroughly at sometime in the future. Most trips being planned at this time are very local (places in Columbia, Jefferson City, and either St. Louis or Kansas City); my immediate need is to compare Thomas’ suggestions about planning for onsite work. The rest of these techniques can be studied as other types of trips occur.

Week 13 - Goal 1: Securing Research Data

I am a believer in redundant backups. We are adding an additional backup to our local and cloud storage, by taking advantage of the sale on a fire-resistant safe that Thomas directed us to. The safe has arrived; we are now planning where we will keep it, how we will store backups for both our computers, and what else will be placed in the safe.

The final assignment for Week 13 is Reviewing the Journey. This will be the subject of my next blog. I am not sure how soon I will be able to post this final blog devoted specifically the the Genealogy Do-Over; but I will begin to work on it right away.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Week 10: Exciting? no; Productive? YES!

I am still coping with the annoying medicine, so I have been very slow in everything I do this week. Cheer-up folks (including me): tomorrow is the last dose, so I will probably never refer to the medicine again (unless I decide to report on its final effectiveness). 

This week has been so overtly uneventful, that I was tempted to skip my report. When I started blogging about the Do Over, I thought I would be recording a weekly diary of my work. As we come close to the end of the official course, that continues to seem like a good idea. So I did talk myself into this week’s issue.

Goal 1: Reviewing DNA Testings: Both Bob and I have had DNA tests made and have spent some time in trying to understand the reports. Bob has had Y-DNA, mtDNA, and Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder test (we don’t have the results of that one yet). Being female, I have had only the mtDNA and the Family Finder. I really didn’t do anything about this part of my activities this week, but reports continue to come in, so I have constant reminders. I will pursue this. (And probably be active in the Facebook Do-Over group asking questions.)

Goal 2: Organizing Digital Files: I’m one of the people here who discussed this issue well before Week 1. At that point in time I set up a new-to-me narrative-style research log which is combined with a research plan. I also refined two databases which I had originally prepared for my previous work. They now track my current Do-Over research. One of these databases acts as an index to entries in my basic software program and also in my log; the other is my ToDo List. The narrative-style log is still rather cumbersome, but it is working well enough;  I almost never forget to use it — and when I do forget, something reminds me and I can go back and fix the “forget" before I lose track of the activity. I am sure that the more I work with this, the more efficient the log will become. But during these 10 weeks I have achieved a system that tracks where I have been and what I have found and is combined with plans for were to look next; and all of this information is organized by a list of proof points. This is more organization than I had previously achieved in seven years of doing genealogy.

As to the rest of the digital files, they are slowly being searched for, relabeled, and stored in Dropbox. As each file is found, it is being saved twice — once in Dropbox, and once on a backup hard disk through the Apple Time Machine program. And if the file is anywhere on my computer, it is being backed up by Time Machine, even if I haven’t located the file at this time. This task isn’t completed, but I am on track here, clearing up at least one document a week and usually more than one.

What I Achieved This Week: My newly building database in my core software program is very small as of today: only 23 people. As I have mentioned earlier I am tracing the pedigrees of three home people: me, my first husband (who is the father of my children), and my present husband (who has been a member of the family more actively and for a longer period of time that my first husband). So the 23 people are the three “home people," their parents, and the grandparents of the home people. No siblings have been added as yet, and no great-grandparents of the home people. (Although some of those not-entered names show up on census reports; those names appear in my Evidentia files because why enter only partial data from a source? And one or two extra families {collateral research and/or cluster research} have also been added to Evidentia or mentioned in my To Do lists as possible lines.)

I am slowly, one-person-at-a-time, preparing the narrative research logs for each of those 23 people. And as I work with each name, I also try to provide some research (with citations) on what is to me Proof Point one for each person on my tree — “What is the birth date of (name of person being researched)? Without reasonable proof of the birth data, the researcher will never be sure if the Sue or the Robert or the Joe {surnames} are truly the persons you are trying to research. And when the surnames of those three home people are Strickler, Watson, and McCormick respectively, you can see that even when I personally know on what day those birthdays are/were celebrated, I am going to run into many similar names. (You can also see that I have become more anonymous with each marriage!)

Stacy Weaver posted on the Genealogy Do-Over page a form that lists resources which may provide answer sources for many of the proof points we need to research. As I looked over the list in connection with one of the mothers in the three lines, I realized that I had never finished the search for her baptismal records. Oh, LOOK, the next church to ask is an active church! O-o-h, look, the church is on Facebook! A query on Facebook gave me contact information; an email got me a response within the week. Answers with information for 5 different people. Only one of these is one of the 23, but I know I need this information. So the data is entered in the dropbox files (with the double backup in place) and pointed to by the Index and To-Do databases. All in place ready to be used when I get to those names. None of these 5 people is the mother for whom I was searching? A negative answer is still an answer. I know of another church, and yes, that church is also on the internet and on Facebook, and I have contact information.

Week 10 ends with improved organization, several census records entered into Evidentia where they will become part of future proof statements regarding the birth of some of those 23 people (and of other family members who will be added when I get to them). And I have another place to contact for more information.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

What is the opposite of BSOs? DULL PEBBLES

And that may be as interesting as my Week 9 review gets.

Last week I mentioned medication with side effects. During week nine the medication made me sleep — long naps and frequent ones. When I wasn’t sleeping I have felt too doped up to accomplish anything; reading blogs, studying archived webinars or hangouts, and so on — they all feel like too much trouble. This is a very dangerous state of mind for doing genealogy. In this condition you will overlook facts and relationships; you will enter data inaccurately and misspell names. In fact, you may create more trouble for yourself then you would ever wish to face!

So I how did I handle this? I went to work on some of my dull pebbles.

First let’s review Thomas’ goals for week 9.

Goal 1: Conducting Cluster Research In the Facebook Do-Over group I posted about a habit of mine that saves data in anticipation of the need for community research. As often as I remember to do this, I save to my files not only the census page (or pages) that show my target family, but also the page appearing immediately before my target page and also the page appearing immediately following it. This gives me an already prepared list of friends, associates, and neighbors, ready for use should I need to extend my research in that geographic area at a time period in or very close to that census year. This is a useful habit; one I hope to become more diligent in and one in which I shall extend my earlier searches to include.

As I was preparing this blog I realized that I am already engaged in a type of cluster study: military records. My mother’s grandfather is a brick wall. We have almost no information about him; family legend has been proved to be mostly wrong. However the information that he was a soldier in the regular army appears to be correct. At least we know that he received lands in Missouri for service in the “Florida Wars.”

I have found entries for one or more enlisted soldiers named William T. Dorrance from Connecticut in the “U. S. Army, Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914.” (These records can be found at Ancestry. com.) In order to follow these records in some type of chronology, I am transferring the entries into a database, starting in 1828 and working my way through to the late 1850s when he appears in Missouri. I am including all entries, not only those which could be my ancestor, because context may turn out to be important. This set of information will probably lead me to similar information concerning the records of the various army units where my target Dorrance enlistees have served.

This is a long-term project, sometimes hard on the eyes and on the brain. I try to get one set of double-page entries done each week, but am often not alert enough to work with this data. I hope that when I have worked through all these records, I will have accumulated enough information to find out WHICH William T. Dorrance from Connecticut is my ancestor.

No progress was made on my cluster research this week, but I have reviewed Thomas’ goal and have proved to myself that I understand the goal and have begun to apply it to my genealogical studies.

Goal 2: Organizing Research Materials — Documents and Photos I have a fairly effective notebook filing system on-hand for document storage. I shall need to recheck the documents currently stored in the notebooks, in order to be sure that they clearly differentiate between old research and research being done under the procedures I’ve been learning in the Do-Over.  This task was beyond my abilities during week 9, but I have managed to place my re-organization ideas on my To-Do list.

Organizing our photos is a part of my on-going activities. Physical storage of the older ones will depend upon and follow the electronic storage.

Other Activities: This brings us to the dull pebbles. It is clear that I spent week 9 fearing to do any serious genealogy work. It may also be clear that I hate to let an entire week go by without getting something done.

A family which emigrated from Germany to Pennsylvania and then spread out throughout the United States shows up in my tree. My paternal grandmother’s mother is on that line, as are some collateral connections.

During my very early research I found a complicated tree for this family posted on a now defunct web-site and also on a tree at Roots Web. More recently a member of the family produced a book about the family (I purchased an e-book version from Lulu. com). These are “springboard sources:” neither give source citations for its data. The book author makes this very clear and gives his reasons for not providing sources. He also gives indications of conflicting data and occasions when he finds the data to be unlikely.

During that early research period I created an auxiliary database containing 3,859 people, entered from both sources. This gives me a picture I can consult when my research bumps into the family. From this auxiliary database, I can assess interconnections and get help in differentiating one David (or Henry or Peter) from another. In preparing this database, I made heavy use of the notes section to list the doubts expressed by the book author and also my own doubts and concerns about the data.

Recently I have discovered two flaws in this previous organization. 1) The notes pages aren’t visible to me as I consult the database; and 2) it is difficult to connect database information with the proper book page. Taking care of these flaws is not very important, but it is a useful help in organization. In periods of lowered efficiency it also has the advantage of not creating problems with important research. So this week I have been adding a flag labeled “Conflict, Alternate, or Dubious Data” to anyone on the tree among the 825 individuals which have entries on the notes page to that effect. (Some entries are additional information about the individual, not notes about problems.) I have also been adding information in the details field which follows the book citation. I have added the e-page number of the pages on which the nearly 4000 names appear. Any errors I make in these entries will create only minor problems (flags and page numbers are easily deleted) and my use of this springboard reference will more efficient in the future.

I wasn’t able to advance toward my true genealogy goals this week. But, instead of losing an entire week to doing nothing, I was able to clean up a side issue. Not managing to go forward, but better than doing nothing. Not bright shiny objects, merely re-arranging dull pebbles.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Week 8 — Rambles Through an Unexciting Week

I am taking a medication that seems to be helping a persistant infection, but has a side effect of making me feel dragged down and listless; this makes genealogy difficult. When feeling like that, mistakes are all too easy to make and much too easy to overlook. In the past, when I feel this way, I have tended to put aside both genealogy and this blog; but I don’t want to “fall behind” during this 13-week do-over period.

Week 8’s topics contained two goals.

Goal 1: Conducting Collateral Research. This happens to be familiar territory for me. I have always assembled as complete a picture of the household in which a direct line ancestor lived. Parents, siblings, and the spouses of those children are the fabric of my direct ancestors' lives. As a child visiting my grandmother in Wabash County, Indiana, I went with my father on visits to various first and second cousins. Those visits, playing with fourth cousins (they’re also fifth cousins), and watching the village blacksmith shoe horses and mend wagon tires (his trees were sycamores rather than chestnuts) are among my fondest memories of my father’s hometown. When I began working with genealogy, I had a strong bias toward seeing individuals within a setting of greater family, and I began researching the siblings in each generation. For me, Goal 1 was just Thomas saying “Keep up the good work — and cite your sources!”

Goal 2: Reviewing Offline Education. The list that Thomas posted mentioned eight entries. I have always used Cyndi's list (although I’m not sure that I use it to best advantage). We will be going to the NGS conference in St Charles this year. Not specifically listed by Thomas are local and state genealogy societies. We belong to the Genealogy Society of Central Missouri, The St. Louis Genealogy Society, and MoSGA (Missouri State Genealogy Association). All three of these have regularly presentations. Both GSCM and MoSGA have programs here in Columbia and are more easy for us to attend than the programs of the St. Louis Genealogy Society.

Attendance at large conventions such as Roots Tech, FGS, and NGS are probably mostly beyond my physical strength these days. At St. Charles (NGS), I plan to attend only selected sessions. I can make that choice at other conferences also, but the further away from home, the longer the conference session, and the larger the conference track, the more difficult such a decision will be for me. I think that the “big" conferences like Roots Tech won't bring in enough positive value to outweigh the health issues (there’s no value in attending a presentation only to sleep through it because you are exhausted). I will see how I fare physically at NGS this May and make further plans after that experience.

Similarly, learning programs like Samford (IGHR), GRIP, and SLIG are probably beyond my physical grasp. I am envious of those who can attend, but believe that I should take my education in smaller bites. I WILL be keeping my eyes open for educational opportunities which are on a smaller scale and also closer to home.

As with Goal 1, I feel that Goal 2 is saying to me “keep up with the good work.”

So what DID I do this week? Well, I went back to my narrative-style research logs, to see if I could improve on them; keep them more focused while remaining cohesive. Looking through the proof points for my marriages, I realized that I had forgotten about doing a research log for my first husband. The MARRIAGE to my first husband is a valid research item in the research log for MY entries; proving his birth belongs in HIS folder, which didn’t exist! Oops! New habits may be difficult to form, but they are beginning to develop.

I had done some entry into my basic software program showing the birth of my first husband, along with three sources which had been found and documented on my Family Tree at FamilySearch. So I prepared and filled in that portion of a Research Log for my first husband, and documented the research done to this point. Not as efficient as it would have been had I done this at the time I was examining and re-entering the information, but doing this within the week of entry is a big improvement over attempting to reconstruct my research months or even years after the work was done. I have also entered all the “facts" located on these three sources and catalogued those claims in Evidentia. The Evidentia work has also been entered into the log, with the dates of the work included. And finally, I made some future research suggestions which are also documented in my To Do List and my research log.

Next steps are to complete the Research plans/Research log records for my first husband as completely as these planning stages will allow and then move on to do the same planing and research activities for my current husband.

I then need to duplicate the preparation of Research plans/Research logs records for all three direct lines my research is following.

The information stored in my primary genealogy software is actually research on three direct lines: my families, the families of my first husband (who is the father of my children), and the families of my current husband (their stepfather, but more of a family member than their birth father chose to be). I am doing genealogy for my own curiosity, but also for the interest of my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

I have three base entry points, me and the two men who married me, with male and female parental lines branching out from each of them. They are kept in the same database for convenience of consultation and entry (and for easy access to overlapping sources) but are easily differentiated because of the Dollarhide numbering system which has been assigned to each person on the combined tree. I have a word-processor index of the main-line numbers for each family; there are comfortable “holes" in this list where I can manage the collateral lines for each of the three basic families. This index was created prior to my joining the Do-Over, but is continuing to work well as I redo the research for my new, improved Do-Over tree.

All this means that my Do-Over tree grows slowly, but with research that is more complete and more carefully documented. My two older children have agreed to work together as my genealogy heirs. Therefore my current task should focus on handing them good research rather than highly populated, inaccurate trees. The paper files as well as the electronic files need to be in good order. Sources, attached citations, evidence evaluation all need to be prepared so that my heirs can understand my work. The older messy work remains in separate files, clearly labeled as incomplete and less to be trusted than the Do-Over files. I see no need for them to retrace my false trails. They can continue to pick them up and evaluate them in the same manner that I am doing. Whatever is completed when I turn my work over to them will be well-done and well documented. The older, poorer work will be better labeled and better organized than the unlabeled boxes many of us were blessed (and cursed) with when older members left the genealogy job to us.

Thank you, Thomas.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Week 7: Down a Dark Rabbit Hole?

Thomas gave us another two goals this week: a)Review Genealogy Software
B) Look into the Best Practices for Digitizing Photos and Documents

We will look quickly at Goal B first because I turn much of this over to my husband. Bob shares genealogy with me, but he dislikes the family research part; that is my job. Bob does photo work, he researches historical background, and he shares location searches with me. Naturally, I asked him to read the Photo Goals section. He studied that section and reports that our current practices are on target. So thanks to Bob’s expertise, the McCormick family tree doesn’t need any do-over in this regard. We will continue in the manner in which we have started.

I have reported before that I have an extracurricular goal of organizing all of our photographs and digitization. One would think that this week would advance that goal. “One” would be wrong. This and all other extracurricular activities have been on hold for the entire week.

Which brings us to
A) Reviewing Genealogy Software (Goal One)

I think Thomas was testing our resolve here. The GenSoftReviews site is the BIGGEST rabbit hole I have ever encountered, just full of BSOs (or perhaps it’s a Hobbit Hole containing one of the world’s biggest mathoms?)

I have spent all week there. I’ve tried out one or two software programs that I hadn’t known about and found them of interest. But mostly I spent hours trying to get a sense of organization for all this information.

This is a dynamic site; the number of total programs changes from visit to visit. Some new software is added (and I believe that some is dropped).

It took me awhile to notice that there are some areas at the top of the list that control the selection and sort of the programs that you see. You can select one or more of the areas in the row of buttons beginning with all licenses. This is how I have handled my sort. (You can also use the search area to call up the review for a specific software that you know of.)

Once I had mastered this I was able to prepare a spreadsheet showing 302 full-featured programs. I was able to sort my programs in Ascending Order and then to export that information into a PDF document which I am unable to embed into this blog. A ping file is too large to load or else it is too small to read; I cannot find a middle ground for this. My Google drive is out-of-order so I can't load a document through that. At this time I don't know any other way to show you the document. I will try to load this pdf file into another blog.

In my spreadsheet I also show whether an entry is free, costs money, or is unsupported. And there are some notes indicating nationality of the providers of the programs and so on. These notes also indicate whether the program has the ability to build a website.

I plan to continue to work with this, sorting for Utility and Auxiliary Programs in the same format. I am doing this for my own interest.. In Facebook conversations at least two people (one of them is me) asked about creating timelines. One or both of these additional sorts will provide some answers to those questions. So, if I can load documents AS a blog, I will post these files also. But again (and in advance) I advise readers to do their own researches. What GenSoftReviews says today will change before the end of next week.

It was a very enjoyable hobbit museum (mathom), but I will endeavor to stay away long enough to continue my do-over.