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December 30, 2011

I'm a Genealogical Hunter and Gatherer Not a Data Enterer

Continuing on from my New Year's Genealogy Resolution for 2012... I've been doing a great deal of thinking about my genealogy organization and record keeping.  Basically it's about using my strengths and ignoring or working around my weaknesses!

Strengths vs Weaknesses

What are my strengths? I'm a very thorough and focused researcher. I'm good at finding information then taking taking that newly-found fact, analyzing it and figuring out what it means in the overall picture, and where to look for the next clue or fact. 

What are my weaknesses? I'm not good at data entry. I get bored and distracted easily.

The Laws of Genealogy?

Okay is that the worst sin for a genealogist? Who says I have to enter my data into a genealogy program? Or, if I choose to enter it to keep relationships straight, where is it written that I have to enter it immediately or in excruciating detail?

It has finally occurred to me that it's okay to record my genealogy research in whatever method best suits me. It's important to me that I cite my sources precisely and accurately and that I know where every single piece of information came from. But there's no genealogy law stating I have to type out every word from every birth registration or census record or death certificate.

And so it's okay to print off or photocopy all the records I find, note the source (in detail!) neatly on the paper, then file it using whatever filing system best suits me.

Using Pointers in Genealogy Program Notes Section

I like to record the names of individuals in my genealogy program so in the Notes section for that person, all I need do is type a notation such as "Birth Registration copy in File Folder A" where "A" is the name I've given that file folder (or binder)  I can also point to digital copies of the noted record.

What a liberating moment!  I've  given myself permission to enter details as and if I wish. Yes I will continue to carefully note sources but I no longer feel compelled to record every word in each record twice - once on paper and once in my genealogy program.

I've made my decision. I'll use my genealogy program to give a one line summary of the record I found, and a pointer to where the copy of that record is in my digital or paper filing system. I may give a brief synopsis of the new fact but if I don't think it's necessary, I won't bother as the paper record is there at my fingertips for reference.

Establishing Daily or Weekly Time Periods

I'm also going to start setting certain days or half-days each week for specific projects.  This will work within my habit of jumping from Project to Project. But with the added structure of an established weekly time period I am much more apt to complete each project in turn.

For example I'm working on a book on involving children in genealogy so I'm going to structure one day a week for that.

For my project to create video tutorials on dating old photographs which I'm creating for the Olive Tree Genealogy channel on YouTube I'm setting aside one day a week until the set of videos is completed.

A half-day per week will be allotted for organizing my digital files. That's a job that badly needs doing but I keep putting it off, or I make a half-hearted stab at it but never really stick to it. But I know myself well enough to know that if I make it a bit easier on myself, I can do it.

It's much easier to stick with a task if I say "I am going to spend one hour cleaning the bathrooms today" then if I look at the bathrooms and think "Wow these need cleaning but it's going to take me several hours to do a good job" By the way we have four bathrooms in our house so it can be a pretty big job.

I find that if I tell myself I only need to spend ONE hour at a task, I often go beyond that time once I get into it. This also works great for non-genealogical and boring tasks such as exercising.

2012 - bring it! I'm ready for you. 


Jen said...

I agree with trying to block out one hour for each job during the day. I have tried (and failed) most days the end of this year to do that. But I must in 2012 if I want to be more productive and successful in my projects.

Lisa Wallen Logsdon said...

I am SO looking forward to your tutorials on photo dating. I have several books on the subject but I need more, more, MORE! Yippeeee!

David Hook said...

I hear you about the strengths and weaknesses. The problem is that I now have a huge backlog of data to enter because I tend to avoid doing it. I have to admit that there has been more than one occasion where I have ordered the same document twice simply because I hadn't entered the first document into my system.

Jenna said...

I understand! I didn't start genealogical research because of my love of data entry, I did it to find the people! I feel accomplishment if I extract the names, dates and places from a document, then scan and attach the document to the individual in my database. We do what we can do as best we can do it. That's all anybody can ask for. Looking forward to your tutorials!

Shelley Bishop said...

It makes so much sense to work from your strengths. I like the idea of setting aside 1-hour time blocks for specific things. Thanks for the inspiration!

Cheri Hopkins aka You Go Genealogy Girl #2 said...

What a relevant posting! I too do not do a great job of data entry in my software but do make note of where my docs are filed for each individual and it works pretty well for me. I sometimes think the minutia tends to overwhelm many of us and spoils the initial reason for doing our family history in the first place. Jenna said it so perfectly.

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

It is so amazing to me to read everyone's comments and realize that I'm not alone in my dislike of entering details! What an eye-opener.

I honestly felt I was alone in my inability to knuckle down and get the job done!

The more I think on it, the more I'm liking my tentative idea to block out small bits of time for specific tasks. I believe that method will work for me and I"m excited to start in 2012 and see how it goes

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

David, your mention of ordering the same document twice is dead on! I've done that too. I learned from that mistake early on!

I started a small exercise book where I note every document I want and tick it off when I've ordered it.

There's no organization to the list, it's just a chronological list as I find a doc I want to send for. But it does allow me to look through to see if I've already ordered the item!

I put the surname in caps at the very beginning of each entry so that I can more easily spot items.

Anna Kramar-Scott said...

So now I don't feel so bad about having ordered something twice. I have just been thinking about setting aside a designated amount of time to work on organizing all parts of my genealogy projects, mostly filing. Just one of the resolutions I'm going to try to stick to! Scanning boxes of family pix, starting a blog, read Are all lists this endless?

Kylie Willison said...

I like databases and data entry, it's the maintenance of said database that I stall on. I've just moved my tree from to my own website and there are lots of things to fix in the .gedcom which I'm putting off doing because it's not as much fun as the research or entering the data. I don't have many paper files yet. I tend to photograph books and documents so that I can upload them to my tree and keep a digital copy.