A few thoughts on completing the genealogy do-over. 

What I accomplished

  • Organized all of my paper files into a binder. 
  • Developed a system for labeling sources in Evernote (Last name, First Name – Document Type, Year)
  • Labeled about half of my genealogy sources in Evernote.
  • Started a new tree in Reunion and on Ancestry. My reunion tree has citations for every fact listed. I added myself, my husband, parents, sisters, and paternal grandparents. My ancestry tree is a bit more bare bones, but I have back up for every fact listed. 
  • Followed a number of people on Twitter who are genealogy related. Joined several genealogy related groups on facebook. 
  • Wrote a learning plan to study genetic genealogy
  • Cited, organized, and read dozens of letters and paper documents that I received from my grandmother about her life. 
  • Started a written interview of myself based on the 52 weeks questions. 
  • Added a list of questions about evidence analysis to the bottom of my sources. 
  • Slowed down

What I still need to do

  • Finish relabeling evernote sources. This should be a priority as it should only take me a few hours. 
  • Begin studying genetic genealogy
  • Continue to organize and read the documents from my grandmother. 
  • Finish my paternal grandparents profiles on reunion and ancestry. 
  • Finish interviewing myself
  • Interview my parents
  • Go back through my blog and add links to add links and pictures. 

What I would tell someone starting out

  • Don’t get overwhelmed. When you read the week’s assignments, decide what is reasonable for you to accomplish in a week and write it down. 
  • Focus on the process more than doing the task for every person in your tree. You can’t cite every birth certificate you own in one week, but you can develo the process to stop and cite a record when you find it. 
  • Remember that it is worth it. I’ve made several rediscoveries based in documents I have in my possessionI had never noticed before. 
  • Slowing down is important and in the end you will learn more about your family then speed clicking through information. 
  • Leverage technology. You don’t have to try every tool, but finding a few good products can help. 

I completely agree  with the idea of sharing. I have done some intense research and have worked very hard, but I would give any of my research away to an interested party. The main reason that I am doing the do-over is so that I can be confident about all of the information on my public tree. I don’t put citations and additional sources in Ancestry, but I am happy to share with anyone who asks.

I do get frustrated with people who replicate bad research online, but so far the only way that I can combat this is with my good information.

I am in the home stretch. This week’s assignments worked out perfectly for me because I didn’t have time to do traditional research so I reviewed my social media strategy. I use Facebook primarily for contact with my friends and family, but I joined a few groups including Technology for Facebook and Organized Genealogists. I’ve also been playing around with Twitter and followed a lot of people. This will likely be my go-to for social media for genealogy, but I have a bit of work to do to get it there. 

I also looked through my feedly stream and cleaned that up a bit. Feedly is a blog reader. You subscribe to blog sites and you can scroll through and read blogposts that interest you. The one thing I like is that you can easily categorize items so I have one feed for genealogy and another for other blog subjects I like to read (Design, organization etc.)

I’m feeling great about my progress. I will keep it up for the next two weeks and then define my goals for the next quarter. 

There are some great resources for genetic genealogy here. I decided that I would do a genetic genealogy mini-course for myself when the Do-Over was complete. So for now, I added a few more suggested resources to my list. I will put together a blog post with my plan for educating myself on genetic genealogy when I am ready to start. 

In terms of back-up, I save everything in evernote which means it is available off-site. If my computer, iPad, or iPhone were to crash I could easily just open everything up on a new device. I do have a lot of photos scanned onto my computer which have not been organized or saved to any cloud service. That should probably be my next project; however, I’m moving and won’t have access to my computer for a few months. Maybe I should move the photos to evernote or to Dropbox for backup purposes and then worry about organizing later. 

The other hole in the evernote plan is that it is easy to delete a note and rather hard to find a note in the trash bin. For some reason, you cannot search in the trash files. This was evident a few weeks ago when my husband needed a copy of his high school degree. Despite the fact that he has two masters degrees, he had to prove he was a high school graduate for something. Haha. I had a note and a source citation, but the image wasn’t there. Fortunately, we still have the original, but it reveals how easily things can get misplaced. I haven’t come up with a solution for this other than being more careful with notes that would be more difficult to replace. I also might go through and permenantly delete some files that I know I will never need again to make it easier to find a file I accidentally deleted. 

I’m proud of the progress I’ve made. I have wanted to start my tree over for a while and this gave me the kick in the pants to do it. I have a lot of work to do and I’m trying to make a plan for the time that I don’t have access to my computer. I’ll have more free time so I’d like to keep making progress. 

I finished something I have been meaning to do for a long time this week… Organize my paper files. Thanks Do-Over!!

I’m agree with Thomas McEntee on this one and I don’t have very many paper files. First, I went through them and separated them between things to keep and things to get rid of. Most of them were copies that people had made and sent to me for various reasons – these I pitched. For now, I kept the original vital records that I’ve ordered.  I made sure that I had good quality scanned copies (ones to keep and ones to chuck.)  I put the vital records into plastic sheet protectors. 

Cluster Research

I absolutely agree with the importance of cluster research. My paternal ancestors have four straight generations of James Greens. I’ve hit a brick wall at the fourth generation and I believe that the key to breaking this down will be researching their fan club. I’m not there yet on my current do-over project, but I’m sure I will get there eventually.  I’m also reminding myself to keep notes on possible theories. I’m always happy when I do this because it jogs my memory. 

I will be on vacation for the next week so no progress will be made, but I will try to engage with the topics.

The first topic is collateral research. I’m not ready to begin collateral research in my current do-over project because I’m digesting the enormous amount of materials I scanned at my parents house last month. They are all cited but I’m going back through them to glean information from them. There are all sorts of gems hidden among them including letters exchanged between my grandparents when my grandfather was in North Africa for several weeks in the late 60s. His descriptions of travel are priceless including buying a one way ticket from Madrid to Tangier for $28. 

I completely agree with the importance of collateral research. One personal story… I had heard that my paternal great grandfather had been married before but had no information about her. He has an incredibly common name (James Green) and I couldn’t find any information about this marriage. I started researching his brother, Thomas, and traced him back to Michigan (a state that my ancestors had no other known connection to.) After a bit more digging, I realized that Thomas and James had moved to Detroit together and later I found a 1912 marriage register for james Green in Detroit. I never would have looked in this repository without the collateral research.
The second topic was in-person genealogy training. I’m not currently living in the US so it’s a bit difficult for me. I would love to attend a conference or week long intensive training, but that will have to be a project for another day. 

When I first read through the task list, I didn’t think I would have much to do, but as I dug a little deeper there is definitely some work to be done. I did think about my software. I am a Mac User so my choices are a bit more limited. I’ve used Reunion for years and really like it. I tried Family Tree Maker when they came out with a Mac version, but it never really caught on for me. I like the way that it syncs with Ancestry, but that was the only real improvement. Reunion has an app and you can sync it manually. I’m hoping that at some point, they come out with a true sync capability because that is my only gripe with it.

I am in good shape with my scanning and digitizing. A few years ago, I scanned all of the documents that I have into Evernote and I just finished citing them all. Now, I am careful to scan, cite, and tag all of the new sources that I encounter. There are a lot of sources that are tagged in my Ancestry tree that are not in my Evernote. I’m hoping that that will be resolved as I re-enter all of my old information. I will make sure that I download scanned copies of these documents.

The one issue that I have is pictures. I currently keep my pictures in iPhoto. For my personal photos not related to genealogy, I’ve moved them to flickr and I have a few in Evernote. Evernote isn’t the greatest for organizing photos, but I’m leaning towards adding them to Evernote so all my genealogy data will be in one place. You can always open the photos in another application if you want to edit or make changes. This is also something that I plan to do as I re-climb the tree.

For on-going scanning, I have a wand scanner that I use for certain things, but often I use my iphone. I’ve decided to get a portable document scanner stand. They are cardboard or plastic stands that fold up and you can set the iphone in them. I think this will speed up the process, reduce the shadows that sometimes are cast on the photos and reduce the potential for fuzzy photos from your hand shaking. I’m still comparing, but hopefully will make the purchase in the next few days.

I don’t have too many issues with OCR. Evernote automatically OCRs everything and it does a pretty good job. Typewritten documents are fine and it even deciphers some handwritten ones. It generally can’t pick up anything from older, more difficult to read handwriting – but then again neither can I.

In my on-going projects, I reviewed the sources that I had been working on up until now and added the evidence analysis questions to the bottom of the note. The documents in question were fairly easy because they were mostly documents related to myself and my husband so they are relatively modern. It was interesting because I noticed that my parent’s names are not actually listed on my birth certificate. I have a few other documents that attest that they are my parents, but it was something I noticed for the first time during this round.

On to Week 8, I’m loving going over everything and I’m refining my workflow.

This week I made modest, but good progress. The Do-Over is really helping me stay on track. In terms of online genealogy options, I focused my efforts on genetic genealogy. I recently received the results of my DNA test and I’m encouraging my dad to get one done as well. When I got my results, I realized I ad gaps in my knowledge so I started an Evernote list of resources that I discovered while googling. When the Do-over is complete I will go back and study the material. I did cheat a bit and used a leftover Christmas Amazon card to buy a genetic genealogy book

I like the idea of capturing evidence analysis. I struggled a bit incorporating it for myself because my primary project is a series of letters saved by my grandmother. I can’t really say that information is direct or indirect, primary or secondary because the sources are a bit more complex with tons of family history packed in each one. I will incorporate the idea though.

Typically every scanned source I have in Evernote has the citation then the scan then a transcript or abstract. I will begin to add evidence analysis information below the abstract. 

One resource I would add to the free online educational opportunities is the North Carolina Genealogy Society. They host webinars occasionally which are usually free for the first weekend. There happened to be one scheduled this weekend on pre 1919 vital records which I participated in.

Last year, I decided to go through every scanned source and cite it. Since then I have kept up with my source citations and don’t add anything to my (virtual) research cabinet without a source. So half of this week was already done. I would really encourage anyone out there to do this. It took a while but the benefits have already paid off. While I was doing this, I also deleted numerous sources because I realized that without knowing where the information had come from, I really didn’t know what I was looking at.

I also tag all of my sources with a tag that starts with DT which stands for document type. So a birth certificate would say DT – Birth Certificate. This is a great shortcut for citing new sources. If I’m citing a new birth certificate, I can page through previous ones and find something similar to use as a template.

I like the idea of a genealogy toolbox and I’ve been copying links from various sources and capturing them in a note. I still have some work on this but the structure is there. In the future, I will try to be mindful and add links to the list as I research. This is especially useful for lesser known sites that might be hard to find again. I think it also can be used as a brainstorming tool. If I was trying to find an obituary, I could glance through the list to see if there were other sites that I hadn’t checked yet.

I’m also continuing to organize, cite, and source all the documents that I collected from my grandmother. I’m hoping to finish up this month, but there are a lot of documents. Once they are all in the system, I plan to do a timeline to review her life. I’ve already gleaned a lot of information as I scanned the documents, but I know I will learn so much more when I go through each line by line.


I am still developing my 2015 goals. I am a little stumped because I know that I will be back in the US for a couple of months and I would like to spend some time doing research on location, but I don’t know where I would like that to be. Originally, my plan was to focus on my ancestors who passed though Shenandoah, but I may or may not be visiting there.

So to begin:

1) Visit the National Archives and locate the Civil War ancestors that I have identified.

2) Participate in the Genealogy Do-Over.

3) Spend several days on location doing research.