Genealogy and family history research has changed so much in the last 20 to 25 years. In the “old days” one needed to demonstrate a ton of patience – for example, waiting for documents to come in the mail; planning a trip to a library or archive; visiting some place where microfilm could be researched; or waiting for letters from newly found “cousins.”
In an odd way it was easier then because one could plan their research much better. And planning could definitely be more easily included in one’s research.
But today – we have a bunch of resources at our fingertips via the Internet, forums, databases from commercial and free entities, digitized records and indexes, online newspapers – you name it. Even online courses and webinars.
Despite these riches it s incredibly easy to be distracted by the next shiny thing. I see some folks spending more time viewing webinars than researching. And checking out the latest genealogy app for their smartphone or tablet. How many times have you gone to ancestry.com or FamilySearch for example just on a whim and entered the same old search criteria for a surname that you have searched dozens of times before? Heck – it’s easy – just try it again. Isn’t that the definition of insanity? Trying the same thing over and over again expecting a different result? Sure there may be a new collection available that you aren’t aware of – but it is in many cases wasted effort.
The solution is focus and discipline. I admit that discipline is not my strong suit. But I can focus. How about you?
- Develop research plans for individuals and/or collections. This is the best suggestion.
- Don’t be subscribed continually to online databases. Take a 6 month break from one of them. Focus on others. if you can afford all or most of them go for it. But many can’t, yet they still stay continually subscribed. I took a break from ancestry.com for a couple of 6 month periods and used other online resources instead, or worked on offline research. And I didn’t suffer total withdrawal. I do the same thing with online newspaper databases – I take a few month break from time to time.
- Work on photos and stories for a month and ignore the BMD hunt. Those dead people will still be there and their “dates’ will not have changed.
- Plan a sources and citations month. As with many or most we have data in our genealogy databases without sources cited sufficiently. Spend a month just focused on cleaning some of those up.
- Choose another month for connecting and re-connecting with your “cousins.” Many times they disappear because they aren’t as interested as us and just won’t go into that attic or garage to pull out the documents and photos that they have. Re-connect and see if they can be hooked this time.
- Don’t get off track by all the automatic hints that many sites provide for us. If we have our family trees on ancestry.com or My Heritage or others we often get emails or indications that there are hints or matches for us to review. Totally cool, but often wasted time reviewing all of them (especially when the match is from a person who has copied your work!).
It is easy to be bombarded with all of these online resources that are readily available. And as we all know, there are many more records available that are not online. But if we spend all of our time flitting from one online site to another, how will we make the time to research offline?
The best analogy that I can think of is Alice down the rabbit hole. The world of online resources provides a ton of riches, yet can actually impede some of your research if you let it.
How do you focus?