Monday, August 22, 2011

How do I catch up to 13 years of genealogy sloth?

Thirteen years ago I created a spreadsheet of all of the reference sources I had collected in my genealogy research.  I only had Microsoft Works then, so I used that.  To fill in the columns for each surname, I went through my surname notebooks.  I updated these files occasionally as I gathered more information, which were sometimes put into the notebooks, or put into the "to be filed" pile. 

I'm going to the Allen County Public Library in three weeks on our Midwest trip to the FGS Conference and other destinations.  I recalled where the printout of my spreadsheet was, so I got that out.  I have added information since 1998 in handwritten notes. 

Then I went looking for the computer file of the spreadsheet.  Hmmm, it's not in my files for some reason.  Aha, that was two computers ago!  I must have not copied it to the latest computer for some reason. 

Maybe it's on my external hard drive hiding in the 1998 PC directories.  Yep, there it is...dated 1998.  Well, that's OK, I have my handwritten additions on the printout, I can just use the 1998 list with all of the names, and add the handwritten stuff. 

I opened the 1998 MSWorks file in Open Office 3.3, and saved it as an OO file.  Then I edited it a bit, and added the information entered by hand since 1998.  That took about four hours today for just the Seaver ancestry files (but not all of them!). 

Here is a screen shot of the first page of my 17 page Seaver Source listing:

The column headings are:

*  Surname
*  Earliest person's first name (or immigrant ancestor)
*  Origin of earliest person
*  USA towns where family resided
*  Surname books (shorthand)
*  Anthology books (shorthand)
*  County/town books (shorthand)
*  Periodicals (shorthand)

The shorthand for books usually includes a short title, the author and perhaps the repository (including the Carlsbad collection number of the University Microfilms books).

But I have 13 years of research (more or less) to add to the list.  The tasks still left to do include:

*  Update the Seaver Source list (have one major line to add)
*  Update the Carringer Source list. (have two major lines to add).
*  Create a Leland Source list (start from scratch).
*  Go through the "to be filed" pile and "to be entered" pile to add to the lists.
*  Go through my computer files to find content for the lists.
*  Go through my genealogy database notes for ancestors and find content for the lists.

That covers the resource material that I have in my possession -- somewhere.  What about the material I want to find?  That's the next task, including:

*  Update my Book and Periodical lists of "To be found" items.
*  Go systematically through Martin Hollick's book New Englanders in the 1600s to find items I need to find for my New England families (probably 90% of my surnames) and add items to the "To be found" list. 

That's a pretty big job to do in two weeks...but I'm going to tackle it. If I'm able to finish it, then I'll have a clean list of surnames and resource material already found. 

It's funny - I stopped adding paper to my notebooks and stopped keeping this list updated about the same time online resources started popping up all over.  And then genea-blogging began...I've been such a bad genealogy boy for a long time now.  Yea, verily, I have sinned and fallen short of my expectations.

The short answer to my blog title is:  Figure out what information I already have!  Then figure out what I need to find.

I guess the message here is -- I'm going to try to get better organized. Blogging may be light the next two weeks.  And the two weeks following while we're on the vacation.  Or not - we'll see if I can break away from my three-a-day habit here. 


Greta Koehl said...

Yeah, I'm going through some of that same kind of soul-searching (and just plain old searching through piles of junk) right now. Good luck with your plan (I know you can do it)!

Joan Miller (Luxegen) said...

What an ambitious and noble project! Have you considered using programs such as Reference Manager or Endnote? It may not be appropriate in this case but is one that is used by scientists and researchers to organizer references (scientific papers and such). I've used both for science but not for genealogy.

GeniAus said...

Good luck, Randy - you will feel so saintly once you achieve your goals.

Like Joan I like to use a software tool to organise references. My current fave is Zotero

Tina Lyons said...

Good luck with that Randy! I'm looking forward to meeting you at FGS and I'll probably see you at ACPL since I live in Fort Wayne and spend so much time there. Don't know which days you will be in town, but the Allen County Genealogical Society will be meeting on Wednesday at 7pm at the library. Curt Witcher is the speaker and it is free to attend. Email me if you have any questions about Fort Wayne and I'll attempt to help -

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