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 MyHeritage.com Consistency Checker. With my family tree on MyHeritage.com, 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 FamilySearch.org 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.