Setting Previous Research Aside
Many participants have decided to recreate their family tree in their genealogy software, using the best practices they have learned since they first started researching their family history. In my post, My Goals for the Genealogy Do-Over, I stated that I was not going to do this. My reasons are that I have invested too much time over the years, as well as having improved on how I conduct my research, cite my sources, and come to conclusions. However, in the spirit of things, I have stopped doing any research other than the current individual I'm blogging about this month, my 4th-great-grandmother, Lura Ann (JACKSON) PECK CRAPSEY.
Preparing to Research
One thing I've done is to assess how much "stuff" I've got. Although I've pretty much migrated solely to digital records, I do have a lot of censuses and other documents I printed up from microfilm or from my early days of Internet research, when storage space on hard drives was a premium. All my hard copy folders were sitting in a lateral file cabinet that quite frankly, isn't handling the weight of all that paper very well. The drawers are difficult to open and close. So I have bought some file boxes instead and placed all the folders from my dad's lines into two boxes, and all the ones from my mom's lines into one box. I am also researching my children's paternal grandparents' lines, and those folders fit into one box each.
All four of my biological grandparents and my maternal step-grandfather have passed away, and in handling the estates, my aunts and uncles generously sent me many original documents and photographs from my grandparents' lives, as well as my grandparents' ancestors' lives. Much of this still needs to be curated, and was sitting in cardboard boxes in the spare room closet, prone to possible damage from moisture and insects. I have stored these items in water-proof 18-gallon totes, and while this certainly isn't archival quality storage nor a permanent one, it is far better than the cardboard boxes.
I made an interesting discovery: I have less square footage of "stuff" than I thought I did. That's not to say that I don't have a lot. It definitely will take a long time to curate. But a lot of the space that was being taken up was created by the storage means themselves (cardboard boxes). So my tasks will be less than I originally thought. It's a relief!
Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines
I created a checklist for myself on research practices and guidelines:
1. Whenever I being research, I will open the research log(s) pertinent to the individual(s) I am researching. I will then record the source I am using for research, as well as the date.
2. Once I start my research, in my research log(s) I will make notes of search terms used, whether or not an index was consulted, and the results of that search/information found (positive, negative, irrelevant, or uncertain). I will be sure to list details (pages, image numbers, columns, etc.) for easier re-finding. This step is pertinent or both online and offline research.
3. Next, I will copy or download pertinent pages of the documents I researched. If I am photocopying an offline document, I will scan it when I get home.
4. The digital documents will be renamed according to my digital naming system and placed in their corresponding digital folder. Hard copy documents will be discarded unless they are original documents that have great sentimental, historical, or monetary value (i.e. birth certificates, military discharge papers). Hard copy documents that are saved will be filed in their corresponding file folder and file box. Fragile hard copy documents will be stored in archival safe, acid-free storage boxes.
5. Next the information will be added to the correct person(s) in my genealogy software, RootsMagic. I will cite my sources correctly in that software, using its Citation Manager and Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills. I will also rank the record in the Citation Manager, as to its source, information, and evidence type.
6. I will track the information in my research plan and research report (conclusion) as well.
7. I will backup my data to my external hard drive and my online backup service (IDrive) at least once a month.
The above seven guidelines are aligned with my first two Genealogy Do-Over Goals: Slow Down and Do It Right. After all, my family tree deserves the same respect and care that I would give any other client!
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