Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Four For Lent

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent for Christians around the world. We often think of it as a season to give up something and to be denied. However, I think it is far better to substitute something good for a bad habit rather than just staying away from the bad. No matter what your religion, or if you have none, let’s take this season to look for better things as we await spring.

Looking towards you genealogy and your research, what can you improve upon? What would make you a better researcher or make your genealogy more complete?

-       Work on improving your citations

Are your citations in good shape? Do they conform to something that at least resembles one found in Evidence Explained? Or do they more resemble: “That red book on the third shelf from the left.” And “Aunt Mabel told me this once.”

I’m not saying they need to be perfect citations, although it’d be great if they were. We all should strive to get to that level. In the meantime, see if you can get them improved and learn to create at least a basic citation. What I do is find the type I need from Evidence Explained and copy a basic model of that onto a Word file that I call “Citation Cheat Sheet”. I have examples of the most common ones listed here and when I need to craft a citation, I use this as my model and start from there. That way I don’t have to memorize each part that I need or be constantly flipping through a large book to find it. The more you do them, the quicker you can be and the better they will look.

-       Clean up the locations that are in your database

What do your locations look like? Are they consistent or is the same place called several different names? Do you list the county that it is located in? What if they have changed name, county or state over the years? Or perhaps, all designations have changed!

Try to make sure each location is consistent with others listing the same place. If it has changed designation over the years, I will put the original in and in brackets list the current as of the year it changed.

-       Make a list of repositories to research at

Where might that elusive piece of information you’re searching for be? Is there a library or repository it might be at? Perhaps you can find it online in a database. No matter where it might be, go through your unsolved problems and think about where the answer might be. Write up a research plan for yourself in how to find it.
Don’t groan, it doesn’t have to be a formal plan at all. Take a piece of paper, write down your problem (that way we you go back to it, you’ll remember what you wanted to know), and then brainstorm where the answer might be. List records or places that it might be found in. If there are many, put them together in a logical order. Now when you get a chance, you’ve got an idea where to go and what to do! As I mentioned yesterday, I’m working on putting some of these together for days that are better to travel to various areas.  Soon it will be nice weather and we won’t be waking up to snow coming down like I did this morning. As I’m writing this, my car is having its annual inspection and an oil change so she’ll be ready to take off when the weather is!

-       Look into furthering your genealogy education

Is there something you need to learn more about? Why not take time now to create an education plan for yourself? No, not like going back to school, although if that’s something you want or need, now would be a great time to plan it!

Where can you learn what you want? There are many places, books, webinars, websites, and blogs are all quick and easy to get to. Maybe your local genealogy society has a meeting or conference that would be helpful. What about other societies nearby or in the area your ancestors were from? They have helpful information as well. Investigate their offerings and join if applicable. There are many conferences and institutes coming up in the spring and summer. Get registered and make your travel plans.

All of these ideas are designed to make you a better genealogical researcher. Some might not be much fun, but many of them are. It’s especially fun to plan a trip or get together with friends. So, why don’t you choose one or more of these ideas and resolve to improve during Lent instead of just taking something away!

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