Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My Genealogy Do-Over

Genealogy Do-Over

I have been doing genealogy, or researching my family history, for a very long time.  I was 
always curious about my ancestors, but with family and children, I never had the time to get serious about it until the computer entered my life in the mid to late 1990s.  I already knew some names from my mother’s side of the family because my grandmother had related stories to me about them during a visit to the small town cemetery where so many of my family is buried.  It’s funny that I can’t remember exactly when I visited the cemetery with my her, but maybe that is to be expected since I am an Army Brat and we didn’t spend much time in Ripley, Ohio to begin with.  For a couple of weeks during the summer, except when we were stationed in Hawaii and Germany, we vacationed there so perhaps it was during one of those whirlwind weeks that I went to Maplewood Cemetery with her.  Or it may have been during the time my mother, brother, and I stayed with my grandparents in Ripley while my father was at Fort Rucker, Alabama in flight school.  I think we celebrated Memorial Day that year in Ripley and that always meant my grandmother visiting each of her ancestors’ grave sites to pay her respects and leave flowers.  Perhaps my six year old self went with her and it is the explanation of who lay in each spot that I remember and that sparked my interest in family history.  But, like I said, it wasn’t until the computer came into my house that I decided to get serious with researching my family.

The infant Internet opened the world of genealogy for me.  Like now, I lived in South Carolina with my husband and children, far away from Ripley, Ohio where the records, newspapers, and family with their stories were located.  The Internet had these things called Bulletin Boards that allowed people from all over to “talk” to one another about a variety of things, one of which was genealogy.  It was like the Internet was made for genealogy!  I could ask a question about a family name and there would be someone far off in Ohio willing to look in books, the library, or the courthouse for whatever I needed.  Then I discovered software, Family Tree Maker to be exact.  That magical thing that I put on the computer to keep track and organize all the information that I was collecting.  Lo and behold, back in those days, Family Tree Maker even had CDs that contained all sorts of records with the names of my family!  Soon after, I discovered there were websites that allowed me to actually search in records!  What a great and wonderful world had opened up for me.  

Fast forward to 2014...many versions and brands of software later and all the information that my great wonderful world had given me started looking a bit ragged.  The more I had researched, collected names and dates, the more the Internet grew.  Not only could people still talk to each other about genealogy, but expert genealogists were now teaching how to go about it correctly.  They spoke of citations, the Genealogy Proof Standard, organizational techniques, and technology.  As I soaked up all the knowledge over the years of what and how to do all this in the correct way, I was also realizing, but pretty much ignoring the fact, that I probably needed to start over because I had no earthly idea how I had gotten most of my earlier information or how I had arrived at some of the conclusions I had made at the turn of the century.  I knew I had a mess!  

Things have a way of working out or showing up just when they are needed and it was no different with my messy situation.  In December 2014, I saw a post on Facebook in which Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers asked if people were ready for a “genealogy do-over”.  It was just what I needed to spur me on!  I had already begun working on fixing my citations in Family Tree Maker so I thought I was ahead of the game when I joined the group in January of this year.  Ha ha!  Was I ever wrong!  Thomas was teaching the group how to research, log our finds, create a to-do list, make sure we were correct in our conclusions, and all before we even opened our software!  What was this?  Would I be able to really do what genealogists did with their information?  Well, long story short, I bit the bullet and started over with this new to me way of thinking, researching, and collecting.  I’m not going to say it has been easy peasy all along, but I will say that I feel like I am doing what I am supposed to be doing with my research and I feel good about my brand new family tree.  Thomas is now in the middle of round two of the do-over and I am still with him.  I’m still learning, changing, and tweaking some things about my methods of research.  It’s hard to break old habits, but the members of the Facebook do-over group and its leader are a huge help and support.  

This blog is also part of my do-over commitment.  I am hoping to use it for several new ways of doing things, genealogically speaking.  First, I want to document what I find, probably not all of what I find, but a good portion of it.  Second, I want to share what I find and, in return, hope to discover new cousins, how ever distant they may be.  And finally, they say that whatever you put on the Internet is there forever so maybe my great-great grandchildren will be able to read and learn about their ancestors in the future.    

This is one of my favorite Thomas MacEntee books. 


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