Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Setting Your Genealogy Goals

The hangover is gone. The football games are over - most of them anyway. Your Christmas decorations are packed up and stowed away. You are only four days into the new year and you are wondering "What do I do now?"

If you are like me, you are not done tracing that family tree. Or as a friend and co-volunteer at the LDS where I volunteered for over ten years always said: "I can trace my family back to Adam and Eve, I just haven't done the work yet."

Here are a few ideas for setting some goals for this year:

1. Are you planning on publishing a family book? Start reviewing now what you have and what you need to make it more complete. You can start by printing a draft. This assumes you are using one of the many terrific programs that will develop a narrative report for you. If your narrative seems too stale, look at what you can add or subtract that will punch it up a bit. Or maybe this is the year you set aside to update your already published book with all the great information people have shared with you. Be sure to get permissions from any living relatives if you plan on including them.

2. If you need more information to fill in that whole side of the family for great Uncle Homer, maybe you need to check the census for location and birth/marriage information. Finding the location might yield a great paragraph or two from a local history. Does your local/county/state/regional library hold any of these histories? Are they online at Ancestry or Heritage Quest? Maybe a trip to Salt Lake City, the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, one of the branches of the national archives is in order. I know I use the online catalog at the Allen County Public Library a lot for focusing my searches. Not everything is online and published indices and books with birth-marriage-death-cemetery transcriptions sometimes plug those holes up!

3. You know that your family is buried in a cemetery in a certain town. Have you tried googling it? A lot of cemeteries are putting their records online. Or maybe some kind soul has posted that material online on Find-A-Grave or Check these sites. If feasible, plan a cemetery trip and get the information yourself. Over the past few years, I've been photographing graves of family - direct and collateral lines - at the Lexington Cemetery in Lexington, Kentucky. While visiting in Michigan last summer, my husband and I made an unplanned trip to a cemetery in Detroit on a hunch which paid off.

4. Ok, you have those cemetery photos, how about sharing them online at Find-A-Grave! It is an easy process to add information to an existing cemetery database there.

5. Unless your ancestors were 100% American Indian, they were immigrants. Do you have their naturalization papers if they became citizens? Do you have the passenger list they appeared on? Sometimes you just will not find this because the name is so butchered by the indexers or the manifest is just this side of unreadable. I have yet to find my Zimmeth ancestors by any name appearing on any ship manifest between 1837 and 1839. But I do have my immigrant ancestor's 1844 naturalization.

6. If you had ancestors who were early New England settlers, particularly in Massachusetts, there are many great books published for New England towns. My favorite collection is "Vital Records of Sandwich, Massachusetts to 1885." It's a three volume set that I bought in 1998 because that is where my Percival line started. It was expensive, but so worthwhile. There has not been a week gone by this year that I have not marked a page or followed a line through. With the LDS adding Massachusetts deaths and marriages to their pilot Family Search Record site, I've been able to validate many of the collateral lines who lived in Sandwich. And for those of you are researching on Cape Cod, don't forget the Cape Cod Gravestones site. This site has records of stones from 1683-1880 from the 15 towns that comprise Cape Cod.

7. Speaking of travelling, it is always nice to travel to where your family lived and died. I was able to squeeze two trips to Cape Cod out of my husband. It is such a beautiful place. We also discovered how much we really liked Boston, minus the driving and parking. So try and plan a trip to the ancestral home.

8. Actively look for living descendants.  The year I started working on my husband's lines, which are 100% Polish, I talked to his parents and got as much information from them about their aunts, uncles and other siblings. My f-i-l told me about his Aunt Sophie and her husband Fred and their two sons, Carl and David. This was before we had internet access and I owned one of those every name phonebooks on disk. I found some people with the same last name and wrote to them. One I never heard from, one wrote back and said he was not from that family and the third wrote back saying yes, he was Sophie & Fred's son and did I know who the people were in the pictures he was enclosing. The pictures were of my f-i-l, his parents and siblings circa the late 1930's. I can't even describe the feeling that gave me. Since then we have become quite close with this cousin and have enjoyed many visits with each other.

9. Attempt some organization with your records or just your physical space. Despite the space constraints in my office, I've managed to store just about everything I need. It still needs some tweaking because my horizontal spaces seem to collect paper, photos, note pads and other miscellaneous stuff.

10. Believe it or not, there are people out there who do not own genealogy programs. They keep everything in binders. I started off that way, but found there just was not enough binder space to be had for what I owned. This year, one of my goals is to make sure all the birth, marriage, death and other vital records that I have are all neatly stowed in binders in sheet protectors. Specifically all the records that cost me money to procure, like those expensive vital records from Michigan, and any vital that pertains to a direct line ancestor for hubby or me.

I hope I have given you some ideas to direct your research in 2010. Good luck


PS - Don't forget to check out  Relatively Speaking theme at cousin/friend Carol's blog at Reflections from the Fence. This will be a joint blog, hopefully every Monday. Check out my sidebar.

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