Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Genealogy Do-Over

Yesterday, thanks to a comment by Carole steers, on her blog, “Slowly Being Driven Mad by the Ancestors” (http://lazyloversancestry.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/organising-your-files.html) I found out about a Facebook group which will provide exactly what I need at the moment – that is, support to make a fresh start on my genealogy.

Now, before all the Parry researchers (and other One-Namers!) raise their hands in horror, perhaps I had better explain in more detail.  No, I am not going to be throwing out the thousands of records I have collected over the years of my One-Name Study - even if the plan for the “Genealogy Do-Over [http://www.facebook.com/groups/genealogydoover/] did include “Setting Previous Research Aside” (or at least it did until that was rephrased as “Clean House”.)

But, over the past few years, largely because of “elderly parent issues”, it seems as if I have done little more than tread water on most of my genealogy.  With the passing of my mother earlier this year, many of those demands have eased, so I was already looking forward with a "New Year, New Start" attitude.

To give a little background to the current state of affairs - when I began researching in 1997, it was on my husband’s ancestors, as both my parents were already investigating their sides of my family tree.  After some months, my sister-in-law began to research, just as my father became stuck on our Parry ancestry.  Around the same time, I discovered that I had an LDS family History Centre just 5 minutes down the road, making more distant research easier for me than for my father, because of their film ordering system.  So I handed over the “in-laws” and began what was to later become the Parry One-Name Study (http://www.parryfamilyhistory.org.uk/) with its associated blog at http://parry-one-name-study.blogspot.co.uk/ .

As you can see from the blog, the ONS has been sadly neglected and the web site is what one might call “static”! Since the study started from research into my own Parrys, and gradually expanded into the wider project, the “structure” of my data collection leaves a bit (a lot!) to be desired.  In the intervening years since I began, technology, and the resources available for genealogy, have moved on - not only is there now so much more data available, but the tools for handling that data have progressed, particularly in the potential to move away from “individual” tools, towards more collaborative ways of working.  So restructuring the ONS and changing the web site has been on my “to do” list for a while.

Coupled with that, as both my parents have now passed away, I find myself in possession of all their research materials.  I skipped the “check all prior research” principle on my own tree, because of my concentration on the Parrys.  So, for the first time, I have the opportunity to examine in detail what my parents did, to read all those letters my father wrote as he tried to track down which was “our” Thomas Parry amongst the many others, to follow the trails of the Thomases, the Joneses and the Williams (yes, we have Welsh connections!)  Add in my mother’s Allens, Dowdings, and Naylors etc., and whole new areas of research are opening up to me that I have never looked at before. 

So, yes, it seems a good time for a fresh start.

With that comes the big question – as I re-examine the information, with all the additional data now available as well, will I make the same connections, and draw the same conclusions, that my parents did?

I had already taken a few steps in the right direction, I think, before discovering the Genealogy Do-Over Group:

  • -          I had downloaded Instant WordPress (http://www.instantwp.com/) – an offline version of the WordPress program, so that I can start to learn how to use that to manage the ONS website (a lot easier than downloading the separate programs needed to try out WordPress locally – something I want to do, as I’d rather not make all my mistakes in public!)
  • -          Along with the web site update, I planned to re-organise my filing system – for the ONS, it has long been my intention to do this along the lines of the “7 pillars” recommended by the Guild.  But, for my own ancestry, I haven’t yet decided – my mother organised her files by families, whereas my father’s filing system was based on a timeline.  I think I favour Dad’s method, but we shall see – it might depend on the ideas I get from others in the group.
  • -          Thinking of files and programs, I have also bought Family Historian (probably prematurely  - it was back in August, at the Guild seminar at Fulneck School, so imagine my disappointment when the company brought out version 6 in December and I haven’t even opened the packet of my version 5 yet!) But I have been using Family Tree Maker since I began researching and, while there are a lot of things I still like about it, other programs, such as Family Historian and Legacy, seem more widely recommended among One-Namers.  I opted for Family Historian having seen it demonstrated on a stall at the seminar but I have since also downloaded the free version of Legacy so may end up trying both simultaneously for a while [Note to self – always try out free versions before buying in future and don’t buy until ready to use!]
  • -          My past paperwork is all collected together and boxed up – so ready to be ignored, or sorted and re-examined, as required (this is more by luck than judgement really – as I needed to tidy the house for Christmas, but at least I know where everything is now)(more or less, give or take a box or two!)
  • -          I already have accounts with some of the tools being suggested, such as Pinterest and Evernote, so they are not totally new to me, but  I do still need to learn how to use them so that’s great that those sites will be covered.
  • -          And finally, I’d even bought a copy of "Evidence Explained" earlier this month.

So I think I am almost set to go – I do need to consider my own “Golden Rules of Genealogy” but still have a day to do this before the official start of the Do-Over. 

I imagine some of the tasks for the One-Name Study in particular will take me all year, so my initial concentration will be on my own ancestry - hence this blog.  I have never considered writing a blog about those other ancestors before, although it will tie in neatly with my DNA research as well. But starting this is like a statement of intent about the Genealogy Do-Over and, as “Dustbunny8” commented on Jackie’s Genealogy, [ http://jackiesgenealogy.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/genealogy-do-over.html ] the most important thing I can do is just START!