Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. Last month I discussed family traditions and I encouraged my readers to share some of their stories. I have not heard from anyone, but surely some of you have traditions to share. I am looking forward to hearing your stories.
Now it is time to look ahead at 2013. Some friends and I had a discussion the other day about resolutions. Some friends never make any. Others have a long list. Most have one or two resolutions. I was quiet as the discussion went on and they eventually turned to me to ask what my resolutions were. I replied that I was going to write a book. Silence. Then one of my friends finally said "I think she is serious and she probably will do it."
I was serious. I have been doing genealogical research for more than 40 years and I have gathered a lot of information in that time. I have even written some family histories to share with my family. Now it is time to do what I tell my students to do — write your own family history. After all, if I don't do it, there is nobody else in my family that will.
Where do I start? First I had to take my own advice from the old saying about "how do I eat an elephant?" The answer: "one bite at a time." First I had to plan exactly what I would do.
That thought took me back to when one of our members told me she didn't know how to get organized. She explained that she has lots of information, but doesn't know what to do with it and never seems to have time to get any research done. I told her there is a lot that can be done genealogy-wise for short periods of time. I suggested to her that she try to set aside a specific time period each day, say, 15 minutes, a half-hour, an hour, or maybe 2-3 hours once or twice a week — only to work on genealogy.
Some of the things I suggested are:
— Go through the research you have done and organize it into files for each family.
— Begin a research log showing what research you have done and then list what research you want to do.
— Go on the Internet and do a search on one relative, trying Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Google or some other search engine.
— Pick up the phone and call a relative to ask some questions you need answered to move on with your research.
— Scan some photographs into your genealogical program or put into a family scrapbook.
— Pick up a genealogy magazine or online e-zine, and see what websites they suggest you try or read an article about research in an area of the country or world that your family comes from. Then in another session, use the suggestions to do some more research.
— If you don't have a genealogy program on your computer, go online and research what program would be the best for you and then either order it online or check at a local store to see if they have it for sale.
— Once you have a genealogy software program on your computer, use your daily time to input information you gathered in your family files. Be sure to always record your sources of information as you do your research, as it will save you a lot of extra work later on.
How does that elephant taste now? I imagine that it is beginning to taste pretty good. You have a plan in mind and you have prioritized time during which you will be doing genealogy work regularly. This will probably encourage you to set aside even longer periods of time to work on your family history, as time permits.
What about my book? What are my plans?
To begin with, I had to decide what I was going to write. I decided to concentrate on my father's family. So I will be working on my maiden name — McWain — and my paternal grandmother's — Livingston. I have already begun taking some bites out of the research by gathering all my records, photographs and memorabilia together, so I have them handy to work on. I am concentrating on the book at least an hour, five times a week.
First I want to go through all my records and be sure they are in my software program. Since I use Family Tree Maker and it is connected to my Ancestry.com subscription, I have "leaves" pop up that show me there is information online about the person I input into the program. I plan to follow up all these leads and then explore more on each person. With those leads, I will then explore other websites to find as much information as I can online.
I am beginning to take the first bites and do the research for the book. I set a time line for the year so that I will complete it before 2014. I am excited about the challenge ahead of me and I challenge all of you to take your first bites, too, by setting goals for yourself. We can compare our progress throughout the year. I wish you all much success!
Carol McWain Goodenough is a professional genealogist with Goodenough Genealogical Services. Her column appears regularly in the Petoskey News-Review's Saturday edition. Call (231) 582-7042 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org for information about the monthly genealogy group meeting at 6 p.m. the second Thursday of the month at Charlevoix Public Library.