Honestly, I don’t know if it’s any good (I am my own worst critic). I have been looking at this project for a couple of years and almost non-stop for the last 3 months. I am not sure who or what it’s about anymore, if I made any valid arguments, or if it even contained complete, coherent sentences. If you’ve ever undertaken a major project you know what I’m talking about. You get so close to it you can’t see it anymore. The words blur together. And even though it makes sense to you, who knows about the rest of the world.
Let me say this: whether or not I pass doesn’t matter at this point. I did it. It is done, over, finished, kaput and off to the judges. I turned it in and it is out of my hands now. I also know I did my best given all that has happened to me and my family over the last four months. In case you didn’t know: we moved from Colorado to Texas, bought a house, sold a house, packed, unpacked, got kids into school, and are still adjusting to life in a new and almost foreign state. And I finished my portfolio. I think I will say it again because I’m not sure I believe it yet: I finished my portfolio.
Also, whether or not I pass, I know this:
- I am a better genealogist for having done it.
- I have researched, analyzed, correlated, researched, written, proofread, researched, proofread, and researched more than I ever have in my life. (Did I mention that I also proofread until my eyes couldn’t focus anymore?)
- I have learned more about citations that I ever knew before.
- I know more about my methods of being organized (or disorganized) and worked on ways to improve all of it.
- I know way more about the process and what it actually takes to get the portfolio done. (It’s A LOT!)
- If I don’t pass this time, I will be doing it all over again because when you have a goal you can’t give up or you’ll never make it.
- And I know that my mentor Birdie Holsclaw told me I could and should do this, so I will keep working at it until it happens.
There were a couple of good things I learned that I will share just in case you don’t already do these things.
- Keep a log of the documents you’ve requested, sent off for, asked a friend or colleague to copy, etc. I found that I got so many balls in the air toward the end and while I was moving that I had a few documents “on order” that I lost track of. I needed to follow-up on them because they weren’t in my hands weeks before deadline and then I scrambled to get them, failing to do so on one important document. (This is the one thing I can’t get out of my mind.) Keep some kind of log and keep track of those document requests.
- I know you’ve heard this, but I’m going to say it too. Write those citations, fully, as you gather the information. I don’t know how many hours I spent trying to “re-find” things, fill in volume, page, column, enumeration district, and microfilm numbers so I could create an appropriate citation. And I’ve been doing this for years. I know better! I spent too many hours, that’s for sure. And I can now say with certainty that I will ALWAYS write my source citations the minute I find something. Seriously. I am not exaggerating.
- Start writing right away. I tried researching first, filling in boxes in my software and creating check-off charts to be sure I covered everything. I still ended up doing a lot of research during the writing phase of the process and then felt like I was crunched for time at the end. I say forget it and just write. I ended up doing things like color coding sentences that needed more research, writing “find a source for this” in the footnotes, and coming back to it later. Get it all out there, on the computer screen, as much as possible, and then go back and work on it, and then go back and work on it, and then go back and work on it some more. Eventually it will all come together.
I’m sure there are some more “tips” I could give, but these are the first things to come to mind. I’m glad it’s over. I was getting really tired of those surnames and after a while I started getting confused about who was who. I’m happy to have it completed before the holidays and I hope all of you have a great holiday season and happy new year!
(And if any of the above makes sense, I’ll be surprised. I’m pretty sure my mind has gone to jelly for the time being. Just forgive any typos, use of passive voice, improper use of “it’s” or “its” and chalk it up to “post-portfolio brain.”)