Saturday, April 8, 2017

Examining Month Four


  • So here I am with my monthly musing about the Go-Over assignments for Month 4:

    Assignment 1: Tracking Research: If you have never used a research log before, consider using the format above or creating your own. Another option is to see if your preferred genealogy database software has a way of tracking research; some have a To Do List option, others have something similar to a Research Log.

    I have mentioned my narrative style log several times this year in various discussion in the Facebook Do-Over group. Each time I say that I emphatically DO NOT recommend it for others. It is complicated and cumbersome; but it satisfies some internal need for me and it frees me to concentrate on research.

    The template for this log has been on my computer since 2015. It has continued to work well for  me. I expect that, with continuing refinements, this will be the style of log that I follow for the rest of my life in genealogy.

    Assignment 2: Conducting Research: With your current research, start with yourself. Check to see that all information is accurate, based on your self interview, and make sure each point of data can be tied to at least one record. If something is missing a corresponding record — like a birth location — then mark it as "unsourced" and add it to your To Do List for further research.

    As I have discussed before, I am not doing research at this time; instead I am reorganizing my present research and making my discoveries clear so that my heirs will receive organized findings, instead of the electronic version of those cardboard boxes found in the attic. As I review my research, I do take note of any unsourced findings, and transfer those missing-source areas to the appropriate research log.
  • To accomplish this organization I created three new logs, based loosely on my research log template. I have been adjusting these new logs throughout my work in March and continuing through the first week in April.

  • This journey through reorganization has helped me to understand something about myself. I have always known that I tend to obsess over details. In my professional life as a copy editor, this trait was a strength. A copy editor's job is just that: keeping track of galleys, art, author discussions; observing deadlines; and ensuring that it all comes together. Thirty-plus years at that job has strengthened my habit of listing step-by-step processes and turning them into check lists. Thus my natural trait has been reinforced by on-the-job-training.

  • The reorganization logs are set up so that each log has a checklist of procedures that I use to ensure that the data for each person on my tree has been properly organized. I actually add a checkmark and a date at the end of each procedure when I have accomplished a task.

  • Below the work area on these logs is a diary area where I record what I have accomplished for each individual. At first this area was a repeat (a cut-and-paste type of repetition) of the check list. Soon I realized that such an exact repetition is unnecessary. Instead I now have a summation that states that I followed all the steps for Person xy and have completed the work by such-and-such a date.

  • I have somewhat complicated this process by choosing to compare four database software programs. I had been somewhat unhappy with the program I've been using for 9 years, so I decided to compare it with three other programs. (I  usually use a main program and an auxiliary program in order to widen my reporting options). During my first three months of working with the Genealogy Do-Over, I have eliminated one of the three programs from my list.

  • The name of the program that I eliminated isn't important; the problem with it is that this program doesn't work well with me. I want to do things this this way; the program does them that way. There is no one true way to do things; but a user and a program should mesh, not live in conflict. That program is no longer on my check list.

  • The one process that I thoroughly liked about the discarded program was its source template. In fact, I liked this template so much that I added the fields I hadn't been using to my own program(s), choosing my order of entry. Source work will be easier from now on and so will database synching.

  • In March I worked on Person 1 (me) across the four databases. I also worked on developing my working procedures for the reorganization tasks, as mentioned above. This work includes developing and indexing the Dollarhide numbering system and applying the Dollarhide numbers to each person on my tree. I am also developing and Index/listing of all the sources I use and all the usages of each source, from sources with a single attachment to sources with more than 100 attachments. It took me a month, but I got it all done. I signed off on the work for Carolin [Carolyn] Sue Strickler (Dollarhide 5./0) as of 31 March 2017.

  • Work on Joseph Walter Watson (Dollarhide 6.0) {my first husband} started 1 April 2017. I signed off on Joe on 7 April, 2017.

  • Work on Joe took 1/4 of the time I spent on me? I think that shows that the time spend on developing  the processes has paid off. It is true that I know more about me than about anyone else on the tree, so his entry will be shorter. But, when I went through Joe's database entries, I knew what my tasks were and I knew where the information was to be stored.

  • My work during 2015 on the Do-Over assignments for Month 4 has transferred very nicely into my plans for achieving my new task. And my development work in March was successful. I am now ready to tackle Robert Francis McCormick (Dollarhide 4.0) (my current husband}.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Month Three Review

Usually I write out a draft and compose from that. Earlier today, I composed this blog in "thin air." After much proof-reading and correcting, with many, many saves, I hit publish. The blog vanished into thin air! I hope this wasn't an omen! Anyway, here we go again.

Early this year, I mentioned printer problems. The final solution, one new Canon to replace the former two printers, is now sitting in a new position next to my desk, and has been set up since about March 24. All the backlog of printing from months 2 and 3 are now printed out and in my Do-Over notebook (except this blog). There are a few auxiliary documents I wish to print out, but they are not of calendar importance. I can print them as I get to them.

As to the rest of the month: I lost lots of time to spring pollen; allergies sent me to bed and nothing got done. I also spent a week on the physical reorganization and electronic cataloging of the nearly 400 hundred books in my cookbook collection. Not a genealogy problem (until I get to my genealogy books) but when you own over 7000 titles, book housekeeping is a major task in the household. And a very time consuming one.

The rest of the time? I think it went well. I continued to follow up on the work I have been doing for the root person on my tree — Carolin (Carolyn) Sue Strickler {me}. As I checked entries and research logs in my primary database and worked to synchronize that data across the three other databases I am examining, I found more logs to develop, more prepare-for-the-heirs steps to be taken. So I developed them and wrote up the processes in the relevant logs.

Later today (or early tomorrow) I will examine the data on Sue; if I find that all the preparation steps have been taken and all the processes have been properly described for my heirs to follow, I will sign off the work on Sue, and continue to the next Dollarhide numbered person in my database(s). In spite of the obstacles, Month Three has been productive.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

No Homework for Month Three!

Well, almost no homework. There are some clerical jobs, but the Self Interview was correctly written up back in 2015. I reread my 2015 self-interview and found that I had been thorough in my writeup.

It's a good thing that I did reread this document. All of my proof points have been entered into my research log; but I found that at the bottom of many of my paragraphs, I had placed a list of words {name story, tornado story, Una story / picture on St. Mary's roof} for one example. This apparent gibberish is a string of key words that remind me of family stories and a photo connected with my birth. I had forgotten that I had included these clues. Obviously, I must locate the photo and include it with my other genealogy media. As for the stories, we must decide whether I will write them up or whether my husband will interview me in a series of digital retellings, but we will begin to get those stories on record.

Family Interviews: I skipped this task back in 2015. When I started doing serious genealogy, I was already the oldest living person in my family, my husband was the oldest living person in his family, and my former husband was dead, his remaining siblings the oldest members of that family and not in my reach. There was no one to interview — right?

Well no. I can do a reminiscence write up for each person, as I study that person's entry. Somewhat like the Self Interview, but on the order of "I remember Grandma Strickler's garden …," "I remember mother telling about the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904 …". These "remembrance interviews"  will help me fill out proof points and will point to possible source searches. I do feel that it's too large a job to do immediately. I will do an ancestor at a time in reasonable order.

If you have been following these blogs, you will remember that at the end of February I began to created "task logs" in order to conduct my genealogy-storage overhaul. My Family Interview homework then, list of create an "Ancestor's Log" where I record these "remembrance interviews" with the necessary details so that my heirs can locate what I have done.

The analysis for Month 3 is now complete. There's lots of work ahead!

I mentioned clerical work. This isn't related to the Month 3 homework. All printouts are on hold. This family currently has two wireless multipurpose printers (from two different companies) which aren't working. Therefore I have a backup up of print jobs that need to be completed and added to my Genealogy Do-Over Workbook notebook and to other of my paper files.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Light Bulbs Shine Over My Head

Early in February, I wrote up my Month 2 Do-Over homework assignments in two prior blogs. What happened after that? Well, my previously mentioned iffy help gave me several bad days, so most of the month I wasn't doing "real" genealogy. Instead I was playing in the Bright Shiny Object sandbox. I was also following posts in various of my Facebook genealogy groups. At least I was doing something about genealogy!

It turns out that I was doing much more than playing with BSOs. I was working on two related organization jobs; jobs that I considered necessary, but dull routine, NOT genealogy work. In Month 12 of the Genealogy Do-Over Workbook, there is a discussion about your genealogy heirs.

Back in 2015, when I was first working with these Do-Over concepts I discussed the heir problem with my two oldest children, who agreed to work together on my materials when the time comes that I can no longer work with my trees.

That's fine –– I have my heirs so I should get on with my research. Right? This past week as I was doing those organization jobs it occurred to me how wrong that attitude is! What I now have on my computer is the electronic equivalent of the unsorted boxes some of us have been lucky enough to receive from relatives. Lucky, because they are a potential treasure trove. But almost more trouble than help. Unsorted facts don't add up; they don't allow you to do organized work; since they are unorganized, the data is incomplete –– even though by some miracle every fact you need is included.

So this is Light Bulb #1. At my age of 89-1/2, my primary job is to organize my data so that my heirs know what I have; so they can follow my research trails; and so that they can find my materials and my conclusions. Research Logs will show my research trails; I have a good start on research logs.

But how do I describe my organization? Light Bulb #2: I have started an organization log that tracks my work with sources. Normalizing sources has moved from being dull routine, to being a focused task, complete with Logs that show what has been done and with Future Action plans (ToDo lists). This project is my gift to my heirs; they can now find any source attached to a particular person in my database(s) as far back in the database(s) as my reorganization has traveled. And this information is accompanied by a log which tells what I happened as I met with problems and made decisions.

Many of my previously created sources had media attached. I had already started to reorder the storage of my genealogy media. As I located the various source-connected media files, disconnected them from the sources, and placed them in a new filing system, I realized that Media work also needs a log. So I created that one.

I am currently comparing four genealogy programs: two programs that are native to my Mac and two Windows programs that run on my Mac using Crossover. When I determine which database(s) will become my main and subsidiary programs my media log and my sources log will help show how I made my decisions.

I'm sure I will need some additional organization logs as I work to present my heirs with facts they can build on.

So I am concentrating on the new organizations as my main tasks, my "real" genealogy. Does this mean that my trees will stop growing? I hope not. Whenever a task gets stymied –– whenever you cannot answer "What do I do next?" (or feel unable to write up any future actions), a good technique is to look at something else for a while. I will still be looking to complete work on individuals, to finding the answers to the unanswered questions that I have on that person.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Month 2 Blog 2 Research Goals

Last night I read this assignment again. At that reading, I realized that I was "hearing" something that Thomas wasn't saying.

Ten years ago, at the start of my working with genealogy, I was at a genealogy Chat Room; Dae Powell asked what we wished to accomplish. I replied that I wanted to know everything that I could about my family and to record it in as professional manner as I could. As Thomas does here, Dae said that my goal was too large and too vague. Yet, as I read the question in 2017, my instinctive answer remains the same. I have learned lots in those ten years, so why haven't I learned what Dae and Thomas are telling me.

Because of my interpretation of the question; when someone asks my goals, I seem to hear "Why are you doing genealogy?" My answer fits THAT question very well.

Dae and Thomas are asking, "When you start to 'do' genealogy today, what do you hope to accomplish?" (Or at least this is my new interpretation of the question.)

I can answer that question also, with some built-in flexibility. I usually start to work at genealogy with a "real genealogy" goal in mind — a proof point that needs more research or a proof statement that needs to be prepared, and so on. Sometimes that session runs into a snag. I write up the research log: what I did, what the problem was, what the next steps should be, then temporarily "close the books" on this particular goal. I find that it is better for me to wait a day or so before I return to a point of frustration. I am more relaxed that way when I try again. After closing the troubled task, I turn to something else.

This is where the flexibility factor comes into play. If I have used up most of my allotted genealogy time or if I have used most of my available energy, the "something else" is one of those activities a genealogist turns to when denied genealogy. Working in a rush, or working when you are sure to make mistakes is a waste. You can return to genealogy later. But if I still have time, but my energy level is slipping, I turn to one of my "BSO" goals. Finally, if the snag occurs with usable amounts of time and energy remaining,  I select a different proof point, or turn to some essential organizing/reorganizing task, or … .

By following this pattern (especially the flexibility part), I have accomplished more genealogy work in the last seven days than I was able to achieve in illness-laden 2016.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Month 2 Blog 1 Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines

I believe I have a blog. This started out as a writeup of my thought processes, but by the time I had finished, I decided that I should share this in my Genealogy Do-Over Blog entries.

I tend to read very quickly with no loss of comprehension; this is a job skill developed by proofreaders and copy editors. But occasionally my mind disengages; I see the words but fail to register the sense of the paragraph.

This disengagement has been happening to me as I start Month 2 of my Genealogy Go-Over. As soon as I realized this, I set out to remedy the problem. After some thought, I decided to reread Thomas MacEntee's Golden Rules of Genealogy and to "argue" with them on paper.

By "argue" I am not intending to say the Thomas is wrong. Instead, I wish to record where Thomas' statements may be "wrong" for me. Entries where a statement he has made disturbs me. When I find such an entry, it will be my task to define the difference and to understand what effect that difference might have on the way I work at genealogy.

1. There is No Easy Button in Genealogy.
I do agree with this. I guess I'm surprised that it was listed. This has been part of my very first attempts at genealogy (or even when at 16 I disproved a family legend — and kept the facts to myself; why should I make my mother and my aunts unhappy?) I think this is so intrinsic to me, that I don't need the reminder. I agree with Thomas; I would certainly tell this to a beginner.

2. Research from a place of "I Don't Know."
This also seems to be intrinsic to me. Note the 16-year-old demolishment of a family legend. (Also note that as I began serious work on genealogy, I worked much harder at attempting to prove or to disprove this legend.)
In my very first efforts, 10 years ago, I didn't always know how to let go of preconceptions, but the problems caused by NOT letting go quickly taught me my error. I use "sources" such as family stories, printed genealogies and "mug" books, hints and "shaky leaves" as what I call spring-board sources, hints at possible research areas. Nothing gets entered into my "official" computer-based genealogy database(s) until I have enough documentation to establish working research; everything entered in the "official tree(s) is flagged "In Progress" until I have formed a proof statement.

3. Track Your Work and Cite Your Sources.
I began this way; I have kept to this pattern; and I continue to learn about ways to improve my working habits in this area.

4. Ask for help.
Another step I have "always" taken. I was lucky in finding mentors like Dae Powell, Pat Richley-Erickson, Gina Philibert-Ortega, and Thomas MacEntee during my early years (names listed in in the order in which I met them.)

5. You Can't Edit a Blank Page.
This hasn't been a problem for me. Mind you, I can procrastinate with the best of you (and I admit to postponing research on some of my genealogical uncertainties); but I work on my research OR I work on improving my methods on a daily basis.

6. Work and Think Like Your Ancestors.
I suppose I also do this. My plan may be too vague (to be addressed later in Month 2), but I work on data, accepting facts the way they are presented (after verification), I try new approaches, and I network regularly.

7. You Do Not Own Your Ancestors.
Right on! I have learned much from cousins. I have shared with those who asked. I have met very few genealogists who weren't generous. (When I do meet someone who won't share, I ignore them and go elsewhere. I don't have time or energy to waste in fruitless fussing with loners.)

8. Be Nice. The Genealogy Community is a Small Place.
Of course!

9. Give and be abundant.
Again, of course!

So there you are. Thomas has worded his Golden Rules as if they were tailor-made for me. I didn't find a single quibble. Now I see why I have been skimming over this information. It appears to be mine on an intuitive level. What isn't from my instincts comes from early learning, some on jobs I did BEFORE I tried "doing" genealogy, and the rest from teachers like the MoSGA president who taught a beginning genealogy class in our school system's adult education program, and the fourth cousin who shared source information so I could see how to build and attach sources, to "today" when someone in the Facebook group posts just the right question or just the right answer, to give me a new jump start.

My remaining problem is: Am I being "smug" and careless, because this is mine at a deeper level than verbalization?  It feels to me like putting these ideas in my own words is like describing how to walk or how to breath. But it is very easy to be complacent and stay in one's comfort zone, instead of working to advance. So please chastise me if I am not working hard enough.




Sunday, January 29, 2017

Month 1 — Musings and Conclusions

We are coming to the end of Month One of my 2017 Genealogy Go-Over. As I have remarked before, my work this year is a continuation of the work I did through the four quarters of 2015. The homework Assignment 1 for Month 1 concerning organization was simple for me — because the file structure and the included files established in 2015 are working well for me.

But Assignment 2 "Preparing for Research"? I've been thinking about this all month without getting anywhere! (There have been interruptions — aren't there always interruptions?) I got a new laptop in December; the keyboard has new features I've never seen before. The computer comes with the most recent operating system, and osSierra has BIG changes, so there is a large learning curve. (I AM learning, but it eats up time.)

So here I am, at the end of the month: "I don't have the answer!" "What will I do?!" "I have to make up my mind!"

WHOA. Thomas MacEntee keeps telling up to have fun when we're doing genealogy. He also says that everyone is an an individual and we are to tailor our studies to fit our respective individualities — and the panic recedes.

Earlier this January, I started a three-part discussion on how aging and its attendant illnesses and lowered energy levels affect "doing" Genealogy. I received lots of insight from my fellow "Do-Over-ers" and "Go-Over-ers." What I learned during that discussion is a factor in my input for the rest of this blog.

I'm still not sure I'm doing what Thomas expected, but as I said above — this is Sue (with her own quirks) and not someone else (with different quirks). I am mentioning this in order to encourage readers to add suggestions by commenting on the blog or on the Genealogy Do-Over Group Page on Facebook.

The assignment says "Make a list of your current research habits… ." This is what I wrote:
"I begin a research session by opening my 'ToDoList' database and my 'ResearchLog' document(s); I then pick a task for this session. (I prioritize very lightly — the reasoning behind this is discussed below.) I work on the selected task, write up the ResearchLog on that session's activities, and record the next steps to be taken. I don't have a special time of day or week for research." (The reasons for not having a scheduled time is also discussed below.)

After considering the above statement, I am pretty well satisfied. I could acquire more records if I were more disciplined in my work. But my aim is for improving quality not quantity; this pattern gives me a pattern for improving the quality of my work. And why don't I apply more discipline in setting up my work times? There are two factors behind this attitude: my age and my former employment.

Please understand that I loved my job. But I spent 30 years working to meet a constantly shrinking time frame alternating with periods of finger-tapping waiting for materials to work with. Scheduling!

The front end held the waiting times. A text-book series was in the works but the various manuscripts were slow to arrive. This wasn't some ploy on the authors' parts to annoy their editors. If you write, you know that writing is a process of refinement and the process takes as long as it takes. The shortened time frames came from marketing. "I know we said March, but there's a large adoption coming up in February, can you move up the publishing date?"

We always made the deadline, without sacrificing the quality of the books, but frequently at the expense of 16-hour workdays. When I became fully retired, I chose a more relaxed life style. I'm happier now that I don't have dreaded deadlines ahead of me.

As to my aging: I'm 89; the next age is 90. I'm becoming a very senior Senior Citizen. I get sick more easily and more often. My sleep patterns are erratic — I'll sleep for 20 hours, then I can't get to sleep. So I must choose my research times to match my strength and my alertness, rather than to match the clock.

And finally, I have decided that if I am not alert enough to do "real" genealogy, I will spend some time on some support tasks which interest me: explore hints and/or shaky leaves, prepare some indexes that I want to have, and so on. I've lined up several activities of this type. The discipline I will apply to these activities is to spread them out; to do one type, then the next, etc., — falling into shallow rabbit holes instead of deep ones.