Doing the Genealogy Do-Over
Slapdash genealogist that I am, I've been picking and choosing what I do in Thomas MacEntee's current Genealogy Do-Over project. Still, it keeps drawing me in with all the wonderful ideas and resources, and I've gotten quite a bit out of it so far:
1. Limiting the "ooh, shiny" factor: It's so hard not to be distracted by interesting possibilities, isn't it? I sit down to look at Joseph Ortmann in the 1900 census and suddenly I'm e-mail corresponding with a hotel manager in Texas, searching St. Louis newspapers for Mabel Manson, and following the trail of Frederick L. Manson, which leads to reading about the Ute campaign in the Indian Wars -- even though this all winds up being related to Joseph Ortmann in the end, I'm scattering my energies all over the place and if I'm not at least keeping track of where I've been, I risk doing it all over again at some point.
So Thomas suggests using a "search attempts" log, and for me, this is excellent. Here's an example from a couple of days ago.
I'm realizing that if I don't make a record of these things, that I will soon enough be duplicating all my work, wondering which City Directories I had looked at and for whom, and thinking, oh well, I'll just look at them again. Major time waster.
2. Keeping track of which documents I've ordered has not been on my agenda in the past, but it sure is now. Because the Do-Over is causing me to think about what I'm doing, I hesitated before ordering my grandfather's birth certificate from Germany and instead got out the big envelope in which I've shoved all the official documents I've gotten in recent months. Sure enough, I already had a copy of that document. So from now on, I record everything I've ordered.
3. Another way to control the "ooh, shiny" factor is to record them, as they come up, on a "to do" list. Rather than chasing after a promising lead while you're in the middle of something else, put it down on the "to do" list and get back to it when you're finished with what you're doing. I find this the hardest one to do, because I'm just dying to see what's behind that next mouse click, but I'm trying.
4. I don't have a way of tracking this, but the whole Do-Over process is causing me to look more closely, to mine records for every bit of information in them. In the process of tracking down Joseph Ortmann, I've re-examined the relevant census records and found that they contained more information than I had realized before.
So there it is, what I've learned so far. I have many more tasks I can take up in the coming weeks, and I think that the process of the Genealogy Do-Over will only strengthen my skills as a genealogical researcher.