Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Are you due for a Genealogical Tuneup?

As a long time genealogical researcher, I have noticed that I have more than a few "projects" that I have started and not finished. From digitization projects to correcting entries in my family tree, I have created a lot of loose ends. Perhaps it is time that I had a "genealogical tuneup" and got all of my projects back on track to be finished. Ongoing projects, such as writing blog posts and working with people who need help are not included. These projects never go away or get finished. So how do I get started?

I realize that there are probably thousands of books on self-help, organization, and motivation, but I am not out to make money or optimize my career, I am merely working on finishing a few dozen unfinished projects. I started by asking myself what I really wanted to accomplish? I also sat down and made a list on Google Docs of all the things I thought needed to be "done." I decided to tackle the easiest and shortest project first. This would give a sense that I was going to make some progress.

Hmm. My list was no help. All of the things I had listed were long-term projects not likely to be finished before I pass away. In fact, as I thought through my list, everything about my genealogical research is a "long-term" project. None of them are simple and none of them will take a definably short amount of time.

So what am I going to do to tune up my genealogical research effort and all the items on my list of things to do?

Part of the solution is prioritizing those items that I find to be more important. However, another issue is the overall fact that genealogical work, per se, will never be "done." This is not just a statement to avoid finishing projects, it is a basic fact of life. More people are born all the time, many of these people as descendants of my own ancestors. Therefore, my pool of relatives continues to expand. It is also possible that I will be able to extend my ancestral lines. Each generation of ancestors added exponentially adds to my ancestral line and to the potential pool of their descendants.

This situation is analogous to my early introduction into the world of collecting postage stamps. I quickly realized that I would probably never have either the money or the time to collect all the postage stamps in the world, so I did what almost all philatelists do, I specialized my interests. I am finding that I need to do the same thing with my genealogy. I need to focus on those areas of research that I find most interesting and productive. I acknowledge that I will never be done, but I do expect to make a significant amount of progress.

What can I do to tune up my efforts?

One of the major challenges of all genealogists is to maintain a high level of documentation and consistency in their ancestral lines. I will continue to focus on correcting the information I already have in my family tree. Fortunately, I now have a powerful "tune-up" tool to accomplish this task. It called the Consistency Checker. With my family tree on, I now have eight generations of my ancestors that are being searched for consistency Here is a description of the Consistency Checker from a MyHeritage blog post:
The Consistency Checker employs 36 different checks on the family tree data, ranging from the obvious (e.g., a person was born before their parent, or when the parent was too young to be a parent) to the subtle and hard to find (e.g., a person was tagged in a photo and the photo is dated before the person’s birth; or two full siblings were born 5 months apart, which is impossible). Some of the issues it finds are factual mistakes (e.g. wrong birth date entered), some are bad practices (e.g. birth year entered as 22 instead of 1922, or prefix entered as part of the first name instead of in the prefix field), some are warnings about possible data entry errors (e.g. a woman’s married surname was apparently entered as her maiden surname, or a place was entered that looks suspiciously like a date) and some are inconsistencies you may want to fix, such as references to the same place name with two different spellings. Any issue you feel is fine and should intentionally not be addressed can easily be marked to be ignored and will not be reported again.
Using this tool, I can begin the long process of correcting the entries in my family tree and using other MyHeritage tools, I can add sources and correct the data. I can also use this same information to correct the entries on my portion of the Family Tree. 

Of course, all these efforts are never ending but that is the attraction of doing genealogical research, you always have something more to do every time you wake up in the morning. I may be retired, but I will never be unemployed.


  1. Legacy Family Tree does most if not all of this.

  2. James,

    We all have those numerous "unfinished" family history projects and wonder if we will ever get them all done. My list grows every day.

    But I have come to the conclusion that if they don't all get done it won't really matter. If there is work to do when I am done, and there are others to take over that will be nice. And there is no one to take up the tasks, then it won't really be of any concern to me anyway.

    So I decide to just work on those things that I enjoy most, not the ones that I think need to be tackled, for whatever reason. I will probably add a few stories and names to my family file but mostly I will have fun with those projects that I have the most intellectual interest in.

    I am not going to waste time in finding out new ways to get better organized. That just seems so unnecessary.

    I pretty much know who my direct ancestors were. If I can add to the list and break down a few walls it would be super. But I won't lose any sleep over it.

    We need to take this genealogy think less seriously, especially as our remaining time gets shorter. No one needs the ongoing stress of unfinished jobs that will make life unhappy or shorter.

    Good luck with your list.


    1. Hi Wayne,
      Couldn't agree more. Like many others, I am sitting at the end of line of family historians that goes back over a hundred years and I expect that they will go on for at least another hundred years into the future. But I do hope they will not have to correct as much as I have had to do.