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.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

My Boring Adventures in Week 6 of the Genealogy Do-Over

End of Week 6 and I’m late with my blog. This has been a strange week; so strange that it feels as though there is nothing to report. Partly this is because I reported on my two most important achievements on the Genealogy Do-Over page as soon as they happened.

Goal one for week 6 was Evaluating Evidence. Because one of my personal goals is to become more skillful in using Evidentia, I used that program to analyze the information I had gathered for the first two proof points I had set for my personal entry (presence) in my Genealogy Software. I feel (as I have done from first using Evidentia) that entering information from a source into the Evidentia Claims forms encourages me to notice every pertinent piece of information that that document contains. It is easy to assign the information to each person mentioned in that document and to keep the information on hold for people who are not currently the persons of interest in my genealogical research. I expect that one particular record in the 1930 census and one particular record in the 1940 census will not need to be visited by me again. It’s all saved to Evidentia.

The 1940 census had an entry for my father that I didn’t understand. I searched the internet for an explanation. I found a government explanation of that census which not only explained that entry, but also gave me the information that the respondent to that census is no longer anonymous! (BUT I failed to make note of this site, so my research log is missing some vital information! Two pluses and one BIG minus!).

Goal two for week 6 was to look into online education for Genealogists. I have saved Thomas’ list for further careful scrutiny. I am already familiar with DearMYRTLE’s hangouts, with various webinars (and with the weekly webinar listing), and — of course — with this Genealogy Do-Over.

I’m no longer young; if I’m to get the most out of this learning period, I must (mostly) limit my learning to one area at a time. This week’s study overlapped the activities at RootsTech. I did look into some of the recorded live-stream sessions and I did learn from them. But I did limit myself.

In addition to the specific goals of the week, I have been reporting on various connected activities — all those related goals that I have developed as I worked with Thomas' weekly goals. I report them here to record my progress — a sort of "carrot on the stick" to keep me working on these less exciting but very productive goals.

The first of these activities was reported on the Genealogy Do-Over, the day I had this “adventure.” Because there are readers of this blog who never see the posts on the Facebook page, I have copied that report to this blog. This copied report will also freeze this experience in a more nearly permanent medium than Facebook. So — on to my adventures in searching Newspapers:

February 11, 2015. Columbia, Missouri, where I live, is home to the State Historical Society of Missouri, a document archive of great importance to Missouri research; it features reels and reels of microfilm images from historic newspapers throughout the state. Life gets in the way and we seldom go to this repository. But today we had a successful foray (with what are so-far negative results).

My husband and I each took a reel from one of the newspapers for the same week (which we thought was the appropriate week). In reality, much of our time at the library was spent in learning how to handle the state-of-the-art microfilm readers. (These readers will scan your selected newspaper item to a printer or to a thumb drive.) We needed to learn at what size we should scan in order to locate the pertinent information; we needed to learn how to use the thumb drive on these particular machines; we even needed to learn how to shut down when we were through. We did manage to scan ten days of newspaper coverage from two separate papers. Bob worked on the morning paper, and I worked on the evening one. These were not the days which carried the information we were looking for.

I did not attempt to take along a research log of any type. Instead, using sheets from a small notebook, I wrote down specific research goals (year, target day, event, and appropriate papers). On each sheet we recorded the reel number of the film we researched plus the results of this search. (Small notebook pages fit the workspace at the library better than a printout of a spreadsheet form.) I can now transfer this information to my research log.

And this is where the BSOs come in. You can guess the temptation to stop scanning the pages because the newspaper is showing ads for women's expensive dress shoes at $5 to $6 a pair, for a tenderloin roast at 44¢ a pound. Or to learn that a business building which seemed to have been there forever was turned into a business office only two years before I was born. I learned to keep going. I think someday I'm going to go there and just read and capture the BSOs to use as local color. (When my proof points for this time have been documented, and I'm writing the family story. They wouldn't be BSO's then, they would be background color!)

If you have a similar library near you, I highly recommend that you go there for researching newspaper articles. But BEWARE the Bright Shiny Objects.!

I have continued to chip away at the immense, vastly disorganized folder on my computer called "GenealogyĆ’." It isn’t much, but I have re-filed or discarded 43 items, going from 2,354 items at the end of last week to 2,311 at the end of this week. As I said at the start of this task, it may take me more than a year, but, by documenting these small gains, I can encourage myself to continue chipping away. 

At this point, I would like to stop and remind my readers that reorganization such as this task is not always a simple task, nor a straight forward task.This folder got into this mess because I didn’t take time to evaluate the filed item as to its purpose in my collection of genealogical information. Instead, I just shoved it into this folder under some-sort of name and into some-sort of subfolder. If I repeat this process, my new organization will also fail as organization. So among these 43 items are some items that sat in front of me for 6 to 24 hours while I considered why I had saved it, why I wished to keep it, and where I would look for it when I wished to restudy the information. I’m trying to take this slowly and to get it right this time.

In spite of my earlier reported failure to make a needed entry into my research log, my revised research logs are working well. Last week, I mentioned the enormously useful information Stacy Weaver gave us when she shared her Ancestor Profile form. I haven’t integrated her insights into my logs at this point. It may take a long time to make this “my own.” I have found a way to keep this information at my fingertips as I work on my log. And, again, thank you Stacy. Working with your ideas is sharpening my focus.

And finally, Evidence Explained; I have continued to work on truly assimilating the ideas discussed in Chapter 1. I am happy to report that in the first area of Chapter 1, there are now only two more numbered items to go. Again, I have no time goal; haste makes waste. It doesn’t matter how long it takes me to understand a numbered item. As long as I study a minimum of one item each week, I will make progress. here. 

So, thus ends my story of week 6. A strange week, but a fruitful one, taken all-in-all.

Friday, February 6, 2015

So How Did Week Five Go?

It’s Friday at the end of Genealogy Do-Over Week 5 — Time for my weekly report on my Do-Over journey. Although I did a lot of work and I made a lot of progress, this is one of those weeks when I feel that I failed to accomplish anything. I must remind myself "BEWARE of this feeling," it does not agree with the facts. This is a feeling from the "before Do-Over days” when “my tree didn’t expand” was equal to standing still. This do-over job is similar to remodeling a house. We need to spend lots of time tearing things down and rebuilding habits before the progress is visible, but each step we take is a step along the path.

Assignment One
We had two assignments for the fifth week. The first one – Build a Research Toolbox – will be one of my long-term projects. I have started it by transferring each of Thomas’ entries into a 22-page word processor document, verifying each link during the transfer. This word processor document is a “work from” file; it is NOT my toolbox.

To build my toolbox, I will review the discussions at the Facebook group and decide upon what format the Toolbox should use. At this time I’m leaning toward a bookmarks folder for my Safari browser, but I’m still undecided. I will also need to search the Facebook group for the mention of a “dead links” cleaner before I begin actual work on my personal toolbox.

In my personal toolbox, I will be discarding some of the links that Thomas has suggested because those particular links aren’t relevant to my own research. I shall use others of those links as templates for constructing a list of sites relevant to my searches in specific states. And some sites that I find very useful haven’t been mentioned by Thomas. So I will gradually add and subtract sites from Thomas' list until my list come close to matching my personal needs. I expect that this refining process will continue as long as I remain active doing genealogical research.

Assignment Two
The second assignment was “Citing Sources.” Discussion in the Facebook group mentioned Ben Sayers’ Practical Citations; Thomas MacEntee posted a link to Ben’s site. The Practical Citations citation format has served me well. By using it I have been able to create citations that allow me to retrace my findings; I have enough detail to allow me to extract citation details at need. I am also able to turn these citation details into a more formal detail style when the need arises.

So, I didn’t need to work on Assignment Two? WRONG. Thomas suggested that we become familiar with Chapters 1 and 2 of Evidence Explained. I have owned this book since the electronic copy of the first edition appeared and I have frequently examined these chapters. The assignment caused me to realize that I haven’t mastered any of the points the chapters contain. Now I have another ongoing task: Look at and and really study each of the numbered chapter segments until I can write the point of the segment in one to three sentences. These are not points to memorize, merely condensation of the author’s viewpoint restated in my own wording. In this way I can be sure that I understand that point.

If I find that a point has raised a question, I will explore other sources until I find an answer to the question. For example, Section 1.2 talks about thorough research and I instantly asked myself “How do I know I have done enough looking?” I stared at my books, noticed Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas Jones. It has two pages that refer to this point, so I have noted that down in my outline as a sentence following my short summary.

As part of my learning process, I write the first “own words” interpretation on my waste-paper scratch pad. When I am happy with my interpretation I transfer the note to a small notebook  When the notebook outline of Chapter 1 is complete, I will copy the result to a word processing program and store it my computer. Why all this writing? Because I am one of the learners in this world for whom writing it out does help me to retain my knowledge.

Assignment Two is another on-going task. Right now I’m “stuck" on 1.4. As I read this I say “of course” and am ready to move on. I’m afraid that attitude means that I’m not paying attention, that the concept isn’t truly mine yet. Perhaps that idea is truly already a part of me. If I can’t state it, I may be overlooking the need to act on it. In either case, I need to find my words before I move on.

Other Activities (Connected with or inspired by the Do-Over)
In earlier blogs I have mentioned organizational tasks that the do-over has caused me to notice.

Photos: There are just twenty-three more photos to process before Bob and I can work together on the first three years of our stored digital photos. This will be 123 of the 2,505 photos now stored in iPhoto on my computer. We don’t yet know if Bob has the same photos that I do; whether or not our computers have the exact same photos isn’t exactly important but knowing what we have and where it’s stored IS important.

The “Junk-Drawer” Genealogy Folder: I mentioned that this started out as 3.38 GB of 2,361 items of stored information. I have reduced this 3.1 GB for 2,354 items. A bigger change in the storage space than in the number of items. But I am only looking at one item at a time, and only visiting the problem once or twice a day. I’m just chipping away at this, because other projects are more important. But chipping away does get results.

Narrative-Style Research Log: I am sad to report that this isn’t working as well as I hoped. I need to go back for additional design. What I have developed works very well if I visit it to learn what I have accomplished for a person, but it is too complicated a tool to use as a guide to my research. I need a “working log,” something that I can follow more clearly before I put all the finished pieces into the "finished log" form that I am now using.

Also, this past week Stacy Weaver shared her Ancestor Profile with the Facebook group. There are so many good ideas in her form. I am especially interested in the places to look portion of that form. I think I need to see how I can add such a search guide to my Research Log. Thank you again for your input, Stacy. (And did my reader’s notice how those research guides tie into my question about section 1.2 of Chapter 1 of Evidence Explained?)

So the Research log needs more work. But this is an improvement. The current log, including its drawbacks comes closer to a research log than any of the many attempts I’ve made since I started true research eight years ago.

Not a glamorous week, but a productive one.