Thursday, 1 January 2015

Reflections on a busy year - what next?

On Australia Day, January 2014, I saw a post in Facebook about the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow in her blog, No story too small. For many years I have been planning to write the stories of my ancestors for members of my family and anyone else who might be interested. Aiming to write one blog post a week about a family member forced me to be focused and, once I started, I found it a great project to undertake. I chose to write only about members of my immediate family, grandparents, great grandparents etc. Most of the posts were about family members who were born in Australia or came to Australia, with a couple of exceptions who remained in the UK. In undertaking this project I provided an outline of the life of the person - some posts were more detailed than others. For some of the blog posts I already had information on the blog relating to the family member or I added additional information in another blog post, with links of course. By the end of the challenge I had an overview of four or more generations on the many branches of my family tree. I was able to copy the information and images into a Word document to create a printed version for my mother who does not use computers. I have also made copies for my own reference and given my brother a cd with the pdf version so he can make copies for his family.

This, of course, is just the beginning. Working on the project showed areas where more research is required. It also showed a number of common themes within some of the stories which need further investigation and articles written. Putting the stories in the blog also means that I can select certain stories - members of one family branch for example - and expand and add to the stories as a separate project. Investigating brothers and sisters of direct family members is another project which I plan to work on this year in order to expand the family story. Researching the stories of other family members can sometimes provide a clue about a direct family member not available in regular sources. The major advantage in undertaking the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge is that I have at last started collecting and writing the stories of my family.

During the past few week I have read a number of Facebook and blog posts about projects that genealogists plan to undertake to further their research and improve or revise their research strategies. One such project is the Genealogy-Do-Over initiated by Thomas MacEntee, an American genealogist.Thomas MacEntee recommends that he, and others who want to do so, should put aside their past genealogy research and start again. During the first thirteen weeks of the new year he is going to make suggestions as to how genealogists can work smarter, especially in organising and undertaking research in 2015, using the many new tools that were not available to researchers twenty, thirty or even forty years ago. A Facebook page has been set up for those wishing to undertake the project and it has been interesting to watch the many suggestions and questions from people as to how they may work differently. Recent blog posts have been concerned with establishing goals, file naming protocol, software for genealogy, especially for recording and evaluating sources, and backing up databases and files.

Thomas MacEntee on the Geneabloggers blog (29 December) though provides useful advice for researchers, including those who want to undertake his project, - slow down and think clearly about what needs to be done and how it should done before undertaking any research. His argument is that many genealogists rush to follow a lead, become side-tracked and may miss important information. His Genealogy Do-Over program aims to encourage genealogists to plan their proposed research, determine how the information is to be recorded and remain focused on the one piece of research - not become side tracked by other possible discoveries.

A post on the blog, Worldwide Genealogy, also provides good advice for those of us who have been undertaking family history research for many years. In the post, My three Years of Genealogy Research, Pauline Cass reminds us that we should periodically revisit, record and revise our research.  These views are re-enforced by Jill Ball in her GeniAus blog.

Amy Johnson Crow has also expanded her 52 Ancestor challenge for another year but this time there are weekly themes people my choose to use when writing their posts.

So what are my broad plans for family history research 2015?

Publishing stories
  • Extend my research to extended family members and write some of their stories broadening my understanding of the families
  • Research and write the background stories or themes relating to the history of my family
  • Consider writing brief posts in the 52 Ancestor 2015 Challenge 
  • Re-organise the many articles and files of paper based information I have collected over the past 50 years and put them in an order where they can be more easily consulted
  • Make a list of the family history related books I have, including their main topics, so that I can more easily consult them and not spend time checking the shelves for information I think I have somewhere in books
  • Check the organisation of my computer files ensuring that they are in a logical order and that images and articles have not escaped into the wrong folders.
  • Synchronise my  trees with Family Tree Maker more frequently
  • Investigate more thoroughly how to use  the features of Family Tree Maker
  • Back up my computer records more frequently
  • Revise sections of the family tree to ensure that sources have been recorded and check the accuracy of the information 
  • Investigate computer programs such as Evidentia as a means of organising and recording sources, Evernote etc, which are regularly mentioned, and decide whether I need to use them
  • Continue to monitor the family history information made available via social media
  • Continue to communicate with others with similar interests in family history in general, including techniques in family history research, or specific family branches
The above are not in any order and may be included in the over-all plan to be more systematic and organised than perhaps I have been previously. Most of the points in the Organisation section in the above list I am sort of doing - I just need to establish strategies so I can do them more efficiently.

With the growing amount of information now available, including more resources becoming accessible online, it is increasingly important to focus on specific aspects of research and do a thorough job rather than just collecting bits and pieces, no matter how interesting they may be. However it is also important to remember why you are doing the research and also to enjoy it.


  1. Congratulations on a bumper year Vicki. I look forward to following your progress in 2015.

  2. Thanks, Jill. The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge was the impetus I needed to focus on writing what I presently know about some of the stories of my family. There are gaps in the story but one of the advantages of writing the stories as blog posts is that aditional posts can always be written on the same topic and linked using labels. It is also a good way of sharing the story with family members - my immediate family as well as those I have met via the blog posts and as well as