Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over

Photo : Nagasaki Bomb / public domain

I've decided  to start from scratch with a genealogy do-over.  Here's why :

1) I started poking at genealogy about fifteen years ago and since then have amassed a hodge podge of records, notes and tree data, some of which originated before I knew that a lot of what one can find online in other trees is hogwash.  I know my knowledge level will continue to evolve, but OHMYGAWSH, my processes could sure use a logical, fresh perspective makeover.  Fifteen years is a lot of change and due to the nature of research documentation, incremental change is not always the way to go.  Thus the hodge podge.
2) These days, I am chasing down so many ancestor stories at once that I get this flood of information that trickles through various stages of research but most often, never makes it to my tree software.
3) Geneaology, for me, has evolved from 'interesting thing I do sometimes' to 'immersive hobby that I am borderline obsessed by'.  Just like a career musician might have the best of the best in instruments, it's time I have the best of the best in well oiled genealogy machines.  I want to re-imagine what I'm doing in a way that keeps up with new technology and takes full advantage of what's available these days.
4) There is no better time than now, while there are so many people doing it!  I'm excited to have the pointers and support from everyone who's doing it along with me.  Really, having the community has made all the difference.
Week one is about laying groundwork for where to put genealogy stuff and how to put it there.  It looks like this :
  • Setting Previous Research Aside
  • Preparing to Research
  • Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines

Setting Previous Research Aside

Cue panic!  All of the naysayer blog posts I've seen have been all in a tizzy about how on earth one could POSSIBLY IMAGINE setting aside all of that splendid and spotless work one has done for UMPTEEEN years?! (for full effect, please repeat that with a southern drawl and the back of your right palm plastered to your glistening brow)  Could I just say that I am practically giddy to set my previous research aside?  I mean... I have done a really swell job - pat on the back to 21 year old me - but mentally, it's like a rat's nest of cobwebs and blergh. Knowing that I get to start over with it delights my inner OCD organizer.

I use evernote to do my research, google sheets to organize my genetic matches and Legacy Family Tree to store my family tree data in a sortable, searchable, printable kind of way.  In Evernote, I am renaming the 'old' stack with OLD in front of the name.  I'm not carrying over any of my current data and I will access only primary sources from my old evernote data and move it over as it's needed.  I am also removing all of the shares on my old stuff.  I will recreate them on the new stuff once there is new stuff to share.

I did take a moment to consider whether I should continue to use Evernote for my genealogy research, if I'm getting this chance to start over.  I will continue to use it.  Not only has it served me well and I can't think of a reason I'd want to use a different cloud service like dropbox, but Evernote is integrated into my day to day life so effortlessly that changing systems doesn't make sense.

Legacy is easy - I'm zipping up all of the old stuff and creating a brand new tree file in a new directory.  I will also be attending the Legacy Family Tree Genealogy Do-Over webinar.

For my Genetic geneaology, I'm copying my current sheet into a brand new sheet and deleting the MRCA data.  I'm keeping the match data (chom and start and end points) because it's a pain in the rear to aggregate that from all three sites.

Preparing to Research

This one, for me, is more about re-evaluating my organization structure and how I will use the various entities.

My goals are to keep everything really easily accessible with minimal clicks, to make verified sources and data shareable easily and to be able to easily tell where I left off with a particular line of research.  My stack/notebook structure currently looks like this :
  • Ancestry and Family Tree
    •    Notes and Research
    •    Sinks Evidence
    •    Norwood Evidence
    •    Ulrich Evidence
    •    Hursey Hussey Evidence
    •    Kelly Evidence
I think I'll keep this structure (although, to clarify, I'm creating it anew in a new stack).  Nothing gets moved to the surname folders until it's actually applicable to my own ancestors with that surname.  Until then, it stays in 'Notes and Research'.  The surname folders are created as I have enough data to warrant it.  Those surname folders can be shared with other researchers - my 'Notes and Research' folder is never shared.

I think I also want to additionally create a 'DNA' folder where I segregate all of my DNA specifics like admixture analysis etc.  As well as a 'Family Tree' folder in which I keep versions of my family tree, surnames lists etc so that they are easily accessible for reference, sending and sharing.

Within those notebooks, I tag individual notes with 'content photo', 'content headstone', 'content document'.  These tags have been sufficient for me to easily find specific objects or sources.

In the past, I was not consistently creating one evernote page for my notes on an individual - they were kind of scattered all over the place.  I will create an evernote page for each individual or genetic ancestor to track the why's of each of my conclusions as well as what research I did.

Legacy is installed to my desktop PC.  A short while ago, I discovered that it was easier for me to directly reference media from my local Evernote backup instead of having a separate media folder on my computer.  Then the same image is in both pieces of software without needing to store duplicate copies. I will continue to do that.  I am also going to take a different approach to storing my Legacy data.  I will have one folder, where it's all stored and each file will be named with a date.  In Evernote, I am going to start keeping a change log of sorts so that I know what changes happened in each file and can roll back to a previous version if I need to.

Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines

This is kind of the nitty gritty of week one, for me.  I don't have them yet.  I have a collection of things I've discovered over time and I know what mys tucks and problems are - so I'm going to spend some time working through processes that will make data and information flow easily for me.

I'm feeling great about a fresh new start, so far!  More on what I did with Evernote, Legacy Family Tree and my Golden Rules Here

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