· ROOTSWEB ARTICLE
New Year’s Resolution
You've probably made the usual New Year's resolutions in the past. You know--the ones about eating less and losing weight, exercising more, cleaning out the attic and garage. If you are like most of us, those resolutions are soon broken or forgotten--until a new year rolls around again.
This year, give some thought to resolutions you could make for the New Year (one's that might be easier to keep than the above) that would help you to progress in your genealogical research. I have a list of genealogical resolutions I'm going to make for the New Year; perhaps you would like to adopt one or more of them for yourself.
DOCUMENT YOUR SOURCES
At the top of my list is being more meticulous about documenting where I found information--always listing a source for each event I've found and listing what records I've used to reach my conclusions.
Your source is where you learned your information. It might be a birth certificate, tombstone inscription, information your grand-aunt Susannah told you, or even Sally JONES's research files. Don't list a document as your source if you didn't actually see the document. If Mary SMITH told you she saw a document, then Mary SMITH is your source unless or until you also see the document.
Documenting sources and then sitting back and reviewing them can help you determine whether your sources are good ones that you can readily accept, or whether you might want to dig a bit deeper for more reliable documentation. Mary SMITH may be an excellent researcher but if you have taken her word for the evidence you might want to obtain the original document she claims to have seen. You might find
something in the document that Mary overlooked.
RECORD NEGATIVE RESULTS
If you have searched the local newspapers looking for an obituary for Uncle Harry or checked the local cemetery records where you think he might have been buried, and you have come up empty-handed, make sure you record the fact that you have searched these resources and list the date on which you performed your search. This is an error I made in my early days of research and I can tell you it has led me to repeat searches unnecessarily in the future, in places I've already looked. Of course, recording the date you did your search is important as you might later find that new records have been discovered for the cemetery you previously searched.
If you have been researching for any length of time, you have probably come to a dead-end on one or more of your ancestral lines. Among my brick walls is my Irish MCCONNELL line, mostly because I have been unable to ascertain where they lived in Ireland before immigrating to America.
The New Year is an excellent time to pull out all of the information you have gathered--clues and hints and family stories, and also the leads you eventually ruled out. Revisit the research with a fresh look. Also take into consideration that new information may have become available online that was not there when you last checked. Don't forget to search the archives of the RootsWeb mailing lists and message boards as well as look for new Web pages and family trees that have been posted by others since you last looked.
CHECK OFF-SHOOTS OF YOUR BRICK WALLS
When you reach a dead-end, sometimes the best approach is to try to "move sideways" rather than back another generation. By this I mean you might want to attempt to learn more about the dead-end ancestor's spouse's family or the ancestor's siblings. You might be able to learn information about these other people connected to your ancestor. And through that research you may, in turn, learn about your ancestor.
In one instance in my research I was unsuccessful in obtaining a death certificate for my ancestor, but I was able to find one for his brother and their parents' names were listed on his certificate. In another case, I found the tombstone for my ancestor's brother and later learned my ancestor was buried in the same cemetery. By searching for a spouse or sibling's family you might also find another researcher studying that family who holds the information you need.
CLEAN OUT THE ATTIC
Yes, I know, you vowed in other years to clean out the attic and never got around to it; but maybe you haven't thought of that chore in light of your genealogical research. If you (or your grandma) have an attic in need of attention, it could turn out to be a family history goldmine rather than just a place where "junk" is gathering dust. Consider making that resolution again and this time sticking to it and following through.
You might be surprised at the treasures you find.
SHARE WHAT YOU LEARN
Share with others when you do make new discoveries and you will find that others will be willing to share with you. The greatest resource in genealogical research is other people interested in the same families.
Remember that RootsWeb provides the resources where you can meet and share information with newfound cousins.
RootsWeb Review: RootsWeb's Weekly E-zine
2 January 2008, Vol. 11, No. 1
(c) 1998-2007 RootsWeb.com, Inc.
This article originally appeared in the January 2010 issue of WVGS Generations.