Thursday, January 1, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over: Week 1

The Genealogy Do-Over has begun! Week 1's topics are as follows:
  1. Set aside previous research.
  2. Prepare to research.
  3. Establish base practices and guidelines.

Set Aside Previous Research

This is the part of the do-over that doesn't really fit with my practice of only using WikiTree as a genealogy database. I don't really want to enter everything again on a desktop program, since I don't like the desktop programs anyway.

So, my version of this will be that as I progress through the do-over I will go over every WikiTree profile in my tree and every source connected to those people with a fresh perspective. I will take nothing for granted.

Prepare to Research

My research up until now has been chaotic at best. Productive, perhaps, but probably not as productive as it would have been if I'd ever had a plan. Or a research log so I don't search the same things again and again.

I've decided to give Evernote a try. It seems like it could be useful to someone like me, who doesn't have a desktop genealogy program. I already use it to clip recipes from the web, so I'm familiar with the basics, though I haven't used it extensively. This week I'll be setting up a few notebooks for genealogy. One notebook will be for research plans and logs. This is what I desperately need to improve, so it's my focus. I haven't decided yet what else to put in Evernote.

In addition, as I've done a little bit in the past, I'll be using Remember the Milk for specific to do lists. For example, "Find So and So's parents." might be on a to do list in Evernote that keeps track of research I want to get back to. But the specific item "Look up So and So's obituary in the Winnipeg Free Press archives." would go in Remember the Milk and be tagged with location:library. Then, when I'm at the library, I can see all the to do items that can be done there. Maybe Evernote could do this too, but I already use Remember the Milk for blogging and housework to do items, so for now I'm sticking with what I'm used to.

Establish Base Practices and Guidelines

This is where I actually change how I research. The plan is to sit down and work on a specific person or event. I will get all the information I can get from the sources I'm looking at. When the exciting leads pop up that would normally have me off in some random direction, I will put it in my research to do list so I remember to come back to it, and then continue what I was doing.

I can't promise I'll be perfect at this, since sometimes inspiration strikes and I just gotta go where the wind takes me, but I'm hoping that this strategy will do a lot to give my research a sense of direction, and help me actually finish tasks instead of just starting all of them.

As a sidenote, I'm loving the community aspect of this challenge! Watching the Facebook group over the past few days has been a great experience. I'm looking forward to learning a lot over the next few months!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Genealogy Do-Over

Basically my research plan.
Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers has come up with a challenge of sorts, which is exactly what I need: a Genealogy Do-Over. The idea is to start over with your genealogy research, and do it right this time, rather than continuing to build off of old, bad research.

Because of the way I do genealogy, my Genealogy Do-Over is going to look a little different from most people's, I think. I use WikiTree as my primary (read: only) genealogy software. So obviously I can't just wipe the slate and begin again, since my research is integrated with that of countless other people. I may, however, start using a desktop program just to track my progress in this endeavour. (Alternatively, I could just keep track in a spreadsheet of the WikiTree IDs I've covered so far.)

My reason for wanting to do this is primarily source citations. I'm confident in my facts. Like many genealogists, I went through a phase of thinking I could trust everything in an online tree. But after learning that lesson, I joined WikiTree and started my tree for scratch there, so in a way I've already done one of these do-overs. In the three years since, I'm confident that all my information has come from decent quality sources, such as vital records, censuses, tombstones, obituaries, etc. None of it was blindly taken from another tree. But, often I look at my research and I can't tell where I got a fact from. I'm sure I got it somewhere good, but where is a mystery.

Basically, I'm rushed. I find a census record, add a whole bunch of information from it, use it to add a bunch of family members, and then just throw the link to the census in the sources section of each profile. Only recently have I started really using a lot of footnotes to specify where I got each fact. And I'm still not formatting my sources in any formal way.

Additionally, I don't keep track of my research at all. I just go where the wind takes me. I know that probably means I'm being inefficient, and I've probably lost track of a lot of leads I should have followed. I have a few things on to do lists here and there, but no semblance of a research plan.

So, it's time to go over it all again! I'm sure I'll make some great improvements to my WikiTree profiles, and maybe I'll even find some hidden doors through those pesky brick walls of mine.

More posts to come, once the challenge begins!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What's Your Number?

I first saw it on Pinterest, and since then on numerous genealogy blogs, inculding Olive Tree Genealogy Blog. Everybody's figuring out how many of their ancestors they've identified back to their 7x great grandparents (1022 ancestors in all [not 1024 as everyone keeps saying; do the math!]). What fun!

So I decided to give it a try myself:

GenerationPotential AncestorsMy Identified Ancestors
Great Grandparents88
2x Great Grandparents1616
3x Great Grandparents3232
4x Great Grandparents6447
5x Great Grandparents12838
6x Great Grandparents25634
7x Great Grandparents51241

Grand Total: 222 out a possible 1022, or just under 22%!

Darn. I started out so strong! 100% out to my 3x great grandparents! But the numbers really started to dwindle as I got further back.

In particular, I noticed my mom's side dropped out of the calculations pretty quickly, other than my direct maternal line which I've put a lot of work into. But all those English lines, they go back to 1830 or so and then things start to get challenging! My dad's side, on the other hand, is all French Canadian, so those lines tend to go back to the 1600s pretty easily.

But I'm not discouraged! I'm still thrilled by how much my tree has grown in recent years, and am excited to see the new directions it will take in the future. (I recently learned I'm part German! Who knew?) Perhaps I'll fill in this table again a year from now and see how far I've come.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

GFR Family History Month Challenge: Day 5

Check out my Day 1 post to see this challenge from the beginning!

It's time for Day 5 of the GFR Family History Month Challenge! (You may have noticed I missed Day 4. I had a busy day, and also do not have the free time for scrapbooking!) Today's challenge is: Research a collateral ancestor. Who was your great aunt’s husband? What about that gal with the funny name who married your fifth great uncle? Go find out about someone new. Sometimes clues for your own direct line lay buried with those collateral families.

This is actually a topic I quite enjoy. Apparently it's common in the genealogy community to only research your direct ancestors. When I found this out I was thoroughly confused. I never even considered limiting my tree in that way. I do focus on people who are no more than two generations removed from my direct ancestors (by which I mean all of my ancestors' grandchildren), but there are plenty of times when I go off further than that.

Today's challenge prompted me to look through my Watchlist for a name I haven't looked at in a while, though, and I ended up looking at Samuel Cockroft and Martha Ann Shaw. The Cockrofts aren't related to me by blood, but they are blood relatives of my blood relatives. Emmeline Cockroft was my great grandfather's first wife. When she died, Herbert Jackson was left alone with two small children, and he soon remarried to my great grandmother, Janet Aspinall.

Samuel and Martha Cockroft were Emmeline's parents. A quick search on FamilySearch led me to their marriage registration index. So now, if I want, I can order their marriage record, and continue researching the Cockroft and Shaw lines.

Friday, October 3, 2014

GFR Family History Month Challenge: Day 3

Check out my Day 1 post to see this challenge from the beginning!

It's time for Day 3 of the GFR Family History Month Challenge! Today's challenge is: Visit a cemetery you haven't yet to find the headstones of some of your ancestors. Take pictures. Post them on that collaborative site you joined!

After a day filled with work and homework, I'm writing this when it's already pitch black outside and past my bedtime. :) But tomorrow, I'll stop by the Cimetière de Cathédrale de Saint-Boniface, a nearby cemetery that I'm in the process of photographing for the Manitoba Cemeteries Project. As far as I know, I don't have relatives buried there. Or at least, not close ones, but most of the people buried there are French Canadian, and we're totally all related!

Cimetière de Cathédrale de Saint-Boniface also happens to be the final resting place of Manitoba folk hero Louis Riel, who led the Métis in two rebellions against the Canadian government and was executed for treason, yet is widely considered the "Father of Manitoba". He's also, as I recently discovered, my eighth cousin, twice removed!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

GFR Family History Month Challenge: Day 2

Check out my Day 1 post to see this challenge from the beginning!

It's time for Day 2 of the GFR Family History Month Challenge! Today's challenge is: Start a One Name Study for one of your unique family names or one of your favorites.

As it happens, I've already done this one, too! I always imagined I'd one day start a One Name Study on the Daigneaults, which would be fairly manageable, but so far I haven't gotten around to it. What I did was start a Jackson study, limited to the Huddersfield and the surrounding area in West Yorkshire.

I started my study because my Jackson line goes back to John Jackson, son of William Jackson, of Huddersfield. The reason it doesn't go back any further is because that area just happens to have Johns and Williams Jackson coming out of its ears. So I started this study to research all of them and tease out the various family groups. It is not easy.

So, since I've already done today's challenge of starting a One Name Study, I'll participate today by doing a bit of work on those John Jackson families.

Do you have a One Name Study? WikiTree has a One Name Studies Project! It's great for working with other people who are also facing the specific challenges of One Names Studies.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

GFR Family History Month Challenge: Day 1

For Family History Month (which is October, and I always forget about it), the Global Family Reunion blog is hosting a daily challenge with ways of celebrating your family history.

Day 1's challenge is: Join a collaborative genealogy site to start sharing your research with others.

This one is too easy for me! :) But if you haven't yet joined a collaborative genealogy site, you should! It's a great way to connect with cousins, collaborate on brick walls, and help others connect to their roots, just to name a few benefits!

This is my blog, so I'm allowed to be totally biased and say you should really join It's free, has a great Q&A forum called G2G, and has projects for people who share genealogical interests.