This week’s post from Thomas was a day late. We all understand that life takes over at times. It’s the nature of having jobs, friends, loved ones, sickness. Our ancestors had to deal with life’s pressures too and it would do us good to remember that when we are researching their lives. Why did great grandpa leave his home in VA after the Civil War to live in KY. Well, after his daddy’s slaves were emancipated, perhaps keeping up a large plantation with five daughters was more than he felt he could undertake and so he moved to KY, started a store and lived there until he died. Life takes over. By being a day late, Thomas has taught all of us that we aren’t on a timetable doing genealogy. Life takes over. People are born, they die. We have to adjust our research to our lives and those of our ancestors.
Week 4 was one of those weeks for me as well. Personal life took a rather odd turn this week and now I am once again job hunting. Life takes over.
So am I ready for Week 5? Yup. No matter whether I have time to act on my plans for each week, I plan on making them. Genealogy is not a one week prospect. We research, we find records that are only available 400 miles away, we set that research aside for a while. Record comes available online or we are able to travel and we pick it up again. So will be my journey on the Go Over.
So here is Week 5:
Building a Research Toolbox
I was actually ahead of the game this week and didn’t even realize it. Hubby and I are planning a big trip from our home in the Deep South to Fredericksburg, VA if I am off from work during Spring Break this year. Six days of genealogy heaven. We are leaving #3 home with her grandmother. I don’t know who is more excited, me or Mom?!? One of the days we are gone, we hope to spend a whole day at the Library of Virginia.
Step One: In building my toolbox the first step was to download the microfilm inventory for every county in VA into Evernote. From there, I can tag each note with the ancestors who lived in that county. This will make it easier on me once I am there to see which names to research in wills and deeds. I don’t like online trees. I like real, original documents. I don’t want other’s answers, I want my own conclusions. Even when I work with good researchers, of which I have had many, I like to make my own conclusions on what they have found. So one day to collect as many documents as I can. Got to get that toolbox stocked with good tools now.
Step Two: FamilySearch has excellent wikis on almost every subject a genealogist can think of. I found a reference to an elusive ancestor on one of their wikis. Our library had the magazine and I was able to solve a genealogy problem from the tax list mentioned. Plan on downloading those for my counties in VA most researched.
Step Three: Making sure that I have done as much research from home as I can before I hit the library and that it is well cited and in my computer so I don’t retrace steps that can be done at home. Research trips are expensive. Want to get as much bang for my buck as possible.
I love Elizabeth Shown Mills. I met her many many years ago and she was incredibly sweet and a real Southern lady. I doubt she would remember me among all the attendees in a seminar she was teaching. Can’t remember myself where it was or what she was even speaking on now, but I remember her. And I own both her books and yes, I have read some of them. 🙂 I think good source citations are essential to genealogists and Elizabeth has done an excellent job of trying to put into one place examples to make that easier on the genealogy community. And yet, it seems that by having her Evidence Explained, it has terrified genealogists more than comforted them. I think the main reason for this and I am sure that Elizabeth would agree, is that most genealogists DON’T READ the book! There you have it. Instead of reading, they jump straight to templates they don’t understand and get frustrated. And then they decide that citing sources is too hard, and then they don’t cite anything. It’s like reading your car manual, deciding driving is too hard and staying home.
My theory about 10 years ago became, I will cite something. It may not perfectly match a Mills template, or match the Chicago Manual of Style or (she is turning over in her grave) even match the styles taught to me in 1983 by my High School English teacher. But it will be cited. I will be able to follow my steps to find the source again and hopefully if I can, my reader can too. I’ll admit that the more I have done that, the less intimidating all those templates in my genealogy program have become.
Now my biggest issue with citing sources, isn’t creating source templates, or citations, it’s that I AM LAZY. Yes, genealogists, repeat after me, WE ARE LAZY. It’s no fun to stop when I am finding a lot of good information to stop and create a source citation and then cite it. So we don’t….
So here is what I do: When I am getting ready to go to the library to research, I go to their online catalog, and I get a listing of all the books they own for the county I will be researching in that day. And I create sources for those books right there at home. Yup, create source before you ever leave home. If you don’t use it, no one is going to come by your house and arrest you for having too many sources. Then when I am at the library, if I find some good tidbit, citing the source is simple and quick!
One thing I am able to do with The Master Genealogist that no other software can do is make the roll of microfilm or deed book my repository. This allows me to enter the information about a roll of film ONE TIME. Really wish other software would get on board with this idea of entering microfilm information ONE TIME. (Even if they didn’t want to use the repository for this, a separate microfilm link would be wonderful. This one thing keeps me using TMG.) So before I leave for VA, I will decide what counties I am going to research in. I will decide which microfilms I am going to use and I will create repositories for those microfilms before I leave. Then when I am there (or on the trip home) I will be able to quickly make sources from the wills and deeds found on those microfilms. Hopefully I will find more than one deed or will per roll!
The last thing I do with sources is probably the most important. When I find a new group of document types, the first thing I do is create a good source template. What I do first is write out how I want the source to read. Instead of working in computer speak with “Source Elements” and “excluded text” and other confusing terms your genealogy software creator created because let’s face it, he’s a computer software guy, I simply write on a piece of paper what I want the source to look like. Then I create my template. Where a date or name, or book title is going to be, I fill in a source element for those that TMG has already created. I add in commas, semi colons, etc as needed. And then I create one source template. I see if it reads the way I want. I get that first source perfect according to my standards. THEN I save it with the name of the documents I am using. So if I am looking at TN marriages at Family Search, that is what I name my source template. Then when I come to that same documents six years from now, it’s easy to find the template I used today.
Part of our homework this week is to read Chapters 1 and 2 of Evidence Explained. I think on this cold Saturday I will try and find where I hid my copy and actually do that. Not with the intention of rushing through to get to a template I need immediately, but just to read. Who knows, maybe creating new source templates and citing sources will be a lot less intimidating for all of us if we do that.