Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Key Genealogy Categories for Targeting Your Goals

Yesterday, I posted how to set SMART Genealogy Goals for yourself.

It's all fine and well to set a genealogy goal (or two...or five), but which one(s) do you pick? 

After all, there are all those brick wall ancestors, the family trees you're trying to untangle, that messy file cabinet or hard drive (or both), the classes you want to take, the photos you need to scan, and that blog you've meant to start for three years now. And what about that trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City?

In reviewing my own genealogy goals, I realized there were six categories that most could fall under: research targets, methodology, organization and preservation, education, publishing, and fun. Yes, I believe fun should be a genealogy goal. If you can't have fun with your genealogy, why bother? 

So let me explain the different categories and how you might use them to focus in on your genealogy goals:

Research Target - Here is where you concentrate on a brick wall ancestor (or several), a family line (or two), or try to uncover the truth about a mystery (Whatever did happen to that brother of my 2nd-great-grandmother?).

My own Research Target goal looks like this: "In 2015, I will correctly cite in my RootsMagic database all known facts for my ROBBINS ancestors, as well as all their descendants. I will download or scan all correlating documents, and name and file them on my hard drive according to my digital filing system. My purpose is to have a prepared database for a 2016 goal of publishing a family history. I intend to spend a minimum of one hour a week each Sunday afternoon working on this goal."

Methodology - Most of us realize we can do better in our research methods. These include developing a research plan, following the genealogy research process, citing our sources, analyzing and correlating the information found, resolving conflicting evidence, and producing a soundly-reasoned, coherently-written conclusion. These are the elements of the genealogical proof standard, and I can assure you that if you follow these, you'll knock down a lot of unnecessary brick walls.

My Methodology goal is merged with my Research Target goal stated above, where I mention correctly citing sources. I also have a research plan I will put in place to work toward determining who the parents of my Robbins brick wall ancestor are.

Organization and Preservation - This category covers a lot of details that many genealogists focus on in goal-setting: filing, whether in file drawers or on a computer hard drive; backing up data; curating a collection; scanning photos and documents; purchasing archival safe and acid-free storage products; tagging digital photos; and deciding who should inherit your genealogy are all important tasks of being a good genealogist, family historian, and family curator.

I'll continue to host Scanfest once a month for three hours on the last Sunday of most months. My focus this year will be to complete the scanning of my mother's weekly letters over thirteen years from our homes in Alaska to her parents in Michigan. I will also begin scanning my father's letters to his parents in Michigan from his college in Alberta.

Education - There's always room for improvement in our knowledge and skills. Whether reading about the history of the times and places in which your ancestors lived; taking classes at your local genealogical or historical society; attending a webinar, conference, or workshop; taking an NGS or ProGen course; or participating in a more academic institute such as SLIG or GRIP--the more you know, the better genealogist you'll become.

My Education goal for 2015 includes learning more about probate and court records by reading books and blogs and attending webinars. I also will read more scholarly genealogy publications in anticipation of publishing my Robbins family history.

Publishing - The final goal of any genealogist should be publishing. No one in your family is going to sit down and look through your genealogy software or file folders for fun! They want stories, photos, items, recipes...things with which they can identify at a human interest level. Writing a blog, publishing short stories of your ancestors, creating a scrapbook or photo album, or authoring a family history book are all ways to generate interest among your family members and pass the love of family history along.

My Publishing goal will be to write about one ancestor a month. I wish I had the time to participate in 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, but I know I won't have the endurance, nor the time. I also have an e-book in mind that I've been toying with, but have not set a goal for yet.

Fun - The best part of all should be a Fun goal! Maybe you've never attended a large-scale conference before. Perhaps you'd like to take a genealogy cruise. Is there a major genealogy library or repository you'd love to visit? How about a road trip that includes a number of ancestral locations? Have you considered organizing a family reunion? There are so many ways to include fun as a part of your genealogical journey!

I did a lot of traveling the past few years and really had a lot of fun at conferences, the Family History Library, and meeting a number of my fellow geneabloggers. Those things aren't on my agenda or in my budget for this coming year. Instead, my Fun goal is rather simple: getting to meet a number of people at several upcoming gatherings who will eventually become members of my own family; to learn their stories and backgrounds; and to incorporate them into my life, my heart, and my genealogical database.

There you have it! Six genealogy categories for targeting genealogy goals.

Of course, you may wish to come up with your own categories. You may even want to take some ideas from SMART goal worksheets that you can find online and create your own, using your own key genealogy categories.

My one word of caution is that you not overload yourself with too many goals. One goal in each category is plenty, and you may even wish to minimize your list to two to four categories.

What say you? Are you ready to make 2015 a successful genealogy that you'll look back on 365 days from now with a feeling of accomplishment? Best of luck to you in your endeavors, and Happy New Year!

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