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.