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.

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.