All posts by cattaplin

About cattaplin

Researcher, writer, speaker

Five Goals You Should Set for 2020: Part 3, Business or Professional Goals

If you are a professional genealogist or want to be, then you may want to set some professional or business goals. This starts with an assessment of where you’ve been and where you’d like to be. I shared some of my business accomplishments for 2019 in a previous post. From those numbers, I can make some goals for 2020.

Typically, I assess areas where I am weak in business (marketing usually) and try to find some educational material to help me improve on that. I also assess my numbers from previous years and make some goals for the new year. For example, last year I presented two all-day seminars. For 2020, I’d like to double that. Or I might extend that goal to say in 2021 I’d like to have six all-day seminars scheduled.

I also look at the number of clients and/or client hours worked for each year. Some client projects are longer/larger than others, so the number of clients may be misleading. But I try to pay attention to both. Last year I had sixteen total NEW clients. Every year projects will overlap a bit so I try to focus on new clients, those that signed new contracts in the calendar year. However, several of those new clients renewed their contracts two, three, or four times. So I also pay attention to the number of client hours.

Now, you can’t just say “I’d like to double the number of clients I sign up this year” and expect that to work in your schedule. I still have a kid at home, one who just moved out, and a husband, so I need to plan for family time. I also, speak, write articles, and take consultation clients. I have to leave time for those activities, not to mention my own personal research and continuing education time. Having said that, there is a threshold bullet-2428875_1920that once met, you could hire a virtual assistant and/or subcontractors and take on even more clients. I haven’t met that threshold yet and so will cross that bridge when I get there!

So, take a look at your business or professional setting. Are there areas you’d like to expand? Are there areas you’d like to eliminate or phase out? (Sometimes letting go of one aspect of your business allows you to grow in another.) Would you like to take on more research clients? Speaking gigs? DNA consultations? Does public-speaking stress you out? If so, consider writing articles instead.

Find a way to track this information, whether it is in a spreadsheet, database, word processor, a notebook, something. Then you can have real data to work with. I personally use a combination of tools: Toggl (time tracking), 17Hats (client management), Quickbooks Online, and my Full Focus Planner (paper planner). It works for me. These systems are as individual as the people using them. Find something that will work for you.

Take an inventory of your business/professional life. Make some assessments. Set some goals. Be organized and methodical about those goals. But most of all, have fun doing it. Stretch yourself a little bit more every year.

Five Goals You Should Set for 2020: Part 2, Set an Education Plan

Continuing education is an important part of any vocation or hobby. Keeping up with the latest developments, learning about new topics, and strengthening areas you are weak in are vital for growth and development. So, let’s look at developing a genealogy education plan.

First, you’ll need to do some self-assessment. There are ways to go about this, usually, they are quite individual so take my process for what you can and adapt to what will work for you. Typically, I ask myself these three questions:

  • Where am I weakest in terms of record type, geographic area (that applies to my research or client work), ethnic group, or methodology?
  • What research (usually personal, not client-related) do I want to expand? And what kinds of education do I need to do that (usually geography related)?
  • Are there areas in my business where I need help, more information, a better system, or another area where I can find a class or webinar to help me improve?

Then, I examine the lecture, webinar, institutes, conferences, and other opportunities to IMG_3920_1024fill in those blanks. I will also seek out books, articles, blog posts, past webinars, and YouTube videos that might help start my education in that area.

Over the last several years, my education, in general, has focused on DNA and genetic genealogy methodology. When I moved from Colorado to Texas, I spent the first year learning about Texas history (fascinating!), ethnic groups, repositories, and research techniques specific to this area.

Looking ahead to 2020 and 2021, I know I want to dig deeper into my personal research overseas, specifically in Germany. I am planning on attending the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) in July and taking “Foundations of German Research” with Warren Bittner, for example. There are also a number of webinars on the topic at Legacy Family Tree Webinars1, and over the years I have purchased several books that I need to read (you don’t have a pile of books to read, do you?).

You can get very specific with your research plan. I know colleagues who employ entire spreadsheets to the topic. I try to set aside time each week (usually a couple of hours) devoted to something on that education plan (a webinar, article, book, etc.). Then I try to apply what I’ve learned to what I’m working on. It is a real shame when you attend an institute and then don’t have time to work with anything you just learned! So, that couple of hours per week is spent learning and applying to a research project.

There are a lot of new opportunities coming up all of the time, many of them online which cuts down the cost of travel. There are many webinars as well as several new online courses available through Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), National Genealogical Society (NGS), Virtual Genealogical Association (VGA), and others. I am working on some new online courses in addition to the NGSQ study groups I started so stay tuned for those.

Let me know what your 2020 education plans might hold. I’m always interested in what educational opportunities are available in the world!


1. This is an affiliate link.  

Five Goals You Should Set for 2020: Part 1, Get Organized

It’s 2020! Every new year I get a bit excited about the possibilities. It is like a blank page or a new canvas. The possibilities are endless and amazing. But if you are a disorganized mess, you might miss out on those opportunities simply because you are buried in your disorganization (whatever that looks like in your life). I’d hate for that to happen to you! It took me a while to get a hold of it and it is still an ongoing process. I get busy, things pile up, and before you know it, I need a day just to get back in control.

This blog series will touch on the five categories I generally set or review for myself each year: organization, education, business/professional, research, and writing. First, let’s talk about organization.

I’ve written extensively on getting organized recently, so I won’t go into detail here. But books-948411_1280getting your genealogy organized can be a big time-saver in the long run. I encourage you to look at any system for organization and just take the leap and get it done. This is not something you sit down and do one day, usually. There’s a process: pick a system (this involves a little trial and error) then DO the system (get everything “synced” to the new system).

Beyond what I’ve written about, there are a lot of resources for getting organized when it comes to your genealogy. Thomas MacEntee hosted a Genealogy Do-Over a few years back (there’s still an active Facebook Group). Dear Myrtle did a “Finally Get Organized” series on her blog. Most recently, the Genealogy Guys have been posting on their blog 31 days to getting organized, starting with Day 1.

Here are some more resources:

There are plenty more out there. This is just a short list of resources. The main point is, do some research, think about your personal genealogy, and decide on a system that will work for you. Then get started. I’m a big fan of just working on a large task in small bites. Set a timer and do 15, 30, or 60 minutes per day, whatever your schedule or patience will allow. But get started!

Goal Setting: Looking Ahead to 2020

I don’t know about you but I have some big plans for 2020! I always feel a bit of excitement as the new year gets closer. I am not sure if I feel exhausted at the end of a year from all of the hub-bub of the holidays, or if it’s the Winter doldrums (short days and the yearning to hibernate), but I start to feel a bit “draggy” and thinking about the new year gives me excitement.

For 2020, I already have a considerable number of conference speaking contracts as well as three all-day seminars scheduled so far! I list my upcoming lectures and seminars on my Speaking Calendar on my website (can be found in the menu bar at the top). I have also just received a contract for a large project to be done at the beginning of 2020.

One of the biggest plans I have for 2020 is the development of my new National Genealogical Society Quarterly with Mastering Genealogical Proof (NGSQ/MGP) discussion groups. There are still a couple of seats available in the Monday afternoon session. I am excited to work with old and new friends in these groups, studying these scholarly journals through the lens of MGP and the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS).

Some of my 2020 travel plans include:

I will be presenting three lectures for the Houston Genealogical Forum in February. The Tulsa, Oklahoma Library has hired me to present an all-day seminar in March. And I have a few other things that will be announced as the details are settled. I have a busy speaking year ahead of me!

Other goals I have are to write several articles (ideas still forming) and continue building my client base through speaking, writing, and blogging.HappyNewYear

I hope you can find some time to assess what you’ve accomplished in the previous year and make some plans on how to grow or change in the new year.

Happy New Year!

Goal Setting: 2019 Accomplishments

Every year at the end of the year I assess what happened during the year, what I accomplished, what goals I achieved, what continuing education I participated for myself, how many new clients hired me this year, articles I wrote, and so on.

I have examined my records and can report the following accomplishments.

Speaking

  • Workshops: 3
  • Online Discussion Groups: 3check-1769866_1920
  • National Conference Presentations: 6
  • Webinars: 6
  • All-Day Seminars: 2
  • One-hour lectures (for hire): 4
  • Local Classes (volunteer): 10

Client Work

  • New clients: 16 total
    • 8 projects finished
    • 8 in progress

Writing

  • Articles Written: 9
  • Blog posts: consistently, once per week, usually on Wednesday, since June 2019
  • New Lectures: 6
  • NGSQ article submitted for consideration: 1

Continuing Education

  • Institutes attended: 3
  • Seminars attended: 3
  • Discussion Groups: 2

Other Accomplishments:

  • BCG Renewal Portfolio turned in! (Yes, it’s been five years and I’m still waiting for the results.)

I tend to delve a little deeper into each of these categories and really assess what worked and what didn’t (in my eyes), paying particular attention to what I enjoyed, what stressed me out more than I like, and what I really feel is worth continuing. Then I focus on those items and make goals for next year.

My next post will examine my goals for 2020 and discuss some of the plans I already have implemented!

Making Goals: Assess Your Wants & Needs

We are nearing the new year and it’s always a good time to make assessments. Where have you been? What have you accomplished? What did you enjoy? What did you hate? And then how can you improve on what you’ve done before?

Begin by assessing this year’s activities. This can be done for all aspects of life, but we will focus on our genealogy life in this series. I tend to assess things like how many lectures did I deliver this year, how many new lectures did I write, how many institutes did I attend (as a student) and what were the topics I focused on, what research did I do this year (general topic/surname), list any big projects I completed, etc.

Some of my goal categories are:

    • Blog Posts
    • Lectures
    • Continuing Education (institutes & conferences)
    • Clients
    • Articles
    • Research Projects

I keep track of what I do in several ways. I have my digital calendar. I use the built-in Mac calendar synced to a Google calendar. On there, I have several calendars such as my family calendar, my personal work calendar, and my speaking calendar (that I’ve posted to my website, see the menu bar above). I also keep a folder (both digital and paper, imagine that) of my speaking contracts for the year, as well as a paper calendar where I calendarsketch out the speaking agreements I’ve made. This helps me visualize when I have free time, when I need to plan time for travel, and so on.

I also use a paper journal/planner system. I personally like Michael Hyatt’s Full-Focus Planner (this is NOT an affiliate link). It incorporates goal-setting with a daily planner. I find that I am more productive when I can have my paper planner sitting open on my desk in front of me. I can see my daily goals and tasks. Digital calendars, to-do lists, and notifications are too easy to ignore. They start to blend in with all of the other “noise” that my devices make.

Toward the end of the year, I sit down and tally up the above from my system(s). Then I compare that from the year before (if you haven’t been keeping track, it will take a year to catch up). I assess if I’ve done better (hopefully) or worse (hopefully not). I also assess what I enjoyed and what I did not enjoy. There’s no sense in making goals and completing them if you aren’t enjoying doing it.

Once you’ve assessed your past performance and activities, you can then look ahead and determine your needs and goals for the next year. I will dig into this more in the next post.

Getting Organized: Processing Documents

IMG_3897
My desk still looks like this!

In this series, I’ve demonstrated all aspects of my genealogical organization system, my binders, my digital organization, handling citations, and other aspects of my system. This post will talk about the overall process or steps that I make sure I follow when I find a new document. Whether it is a document you download, a screenshot, a paper copy that I end up scanning, I make sure it undergoes the following steps (they don’t have to be done in a particular order):

  1. Find a document.
  2. Write the citation. I write it first in my master list of citations.
  3. Paste the citation into your genealogy software of choice and attach the image.
  4. Paste the citation onto the image either by using an image editor or by putting it into a word processor and adding a text box.
  5. Name the digital file in a way that allows your file to organize chronologically (or whichever system you prefer).
  6. Print the document and put it in the binder in the appropriate location.

I try to do this as I go, though to be honest, when I’m working quickly during a research session, I often make a folder titled “to do.” Then I dump the many documents into that folder to process later. When I do that, at the very least, I do write the citation while I have the needed information in front of me, then I do the rest of the process at a later time. Sometimes these folders get quite full. When that happens, I schedule a time to focus on nothing but getting caught up.

I want to stress that even though I’ve shared my system, it is up to you to find a system that works for you. The system that works for you is the one that makes sense to your choice of software, one that you can follow, one that makes sense to YOU and how you work.

Best of luck to you with your organizing quests!

Getting Organized: Citations

In my last post, I discussed briefly “separation safeguards” as described in genealogy Standard 8, which states that “genealogists prevent mechanical or digital separation of citations from the” materials, whether it be in the form of footnotes or citations on the front of a photocopied document.1 I have settled on two methods of safeguarding my documents and records from citation separation.

One method is to put the image into a word processing document and adding a text box at the top or bottom that includes your citation.

CitationOnPage

I use Mac Pages, but the system is the same for Word or your preferred software. Simply copy/paste or insert the image into the document, and add text wherever you wish. I usually put the citation below the image as shown above.

Sometimes I get an image that for some reason seems easier to annotate directly on the image rather than inserting it into a word processing document. Typically I find I do this when I have PDF or .jpg files with larger images. I will open the image in my image viewer which in my case is Mac Preview, but this can be done in Adobe Reader with PDF files. From there, you can add a text box over the image to add the citation. Of course, you will want to put the citation in a space that doesn’t change the meaning of the document.

Citation Annotation

This can be done using your image viewer of choice, including Photoshop or Adobe Reader. There are no right or wrong answers here with regards to the process. The only wrong way to do it is to not do anything at all to guard against citation separation.

When it comes to crafting citations, I employ the “Touch It Once” method. I described it in detail in this earlier post, and I highly recommend forming a system for yourself of writing your citations once so that when it comes time to write an article or report to a family member, they are already created and ready for use. This step is all part of my overall process.

Next time I will be discussing my overall process that I use to go from found document to binder. You will need to come up with your own process to stay organized, or you will eventually find a lot of piles on your desk or in your computer of documents you need to organize, and basically back where we started. Don’t get behind again! Tips next time…


1. See standard number 8, “Separation Safeguards” in Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, 2nd ed. (Nashville: Ancestry.com, 2019).

Getting Organized: The Digital Side

I’ve been going on and on about my binder organization methods for several weeks now. What about my digital organization? There are a couple of aspects that I will cover over a few posts, primarily: files on my computer and scanning/digitizing tips. This week, I’ll address how I organize my digital files so they match my binders (more or less).

I must admit that I did not come up with this idea on my own. We all stand on the shoulders of those who have figured things out before us. Every time you attend a lecture, an institute, a webinar, you learn something new, even if you thought you knew everything there was to know about a topic. At the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy‘s (SLIG) first “Tech Day,” I attended a class by Cyndi Ingle (that famous lady from Cyndi’s List! and who is one of the moderators for the Facebook Group “The Genealogy Squad“) and learned a method that would allow my digital files to mirror what I had already created in my binders.

My binders are in chronological order. I don’t know why I hadn’t come up with a method on my own yet, but I hadn’t. I took Cyndi’s class “Coordinating the Cloud” which was about many technical topics, but the biggest takeaway for me was a file-naming system that I adopted for my digital files. (THANK YOU, CYNDI!) Basically, you can name your digital files in such a way that it will match your binders. Now, this might be a big “duh,” but for me, it was “a-ha!” I just hadn’t realized it yet. There are those moments when something should be so obvious but it isn’t for some reason. This was one of those moments.

So the file naming system goes like this:

YEAR-SURNAME FIRSTNAME – code or description of the document.jpg (or whatever file type it is)

For example:

  • 1850-HIGDON Joseph – census.jpg
  • 1853-HIGDON Joseph & RENFRO Malinda – MR.jpg   (marriage record)

And in my finder it looks like this:

DigitalBinders

Because of the way computers organize files, numbers come before letters. So by putting the year first, those files come before the children, just like my binders. You can choose some style things. I typically like to have the surname in all caps, it is just easier for my eye to land on it, however, in this example, you can see my inconsistency. It happens. Someday when I really want to procrastinate I’ll work on fixing these things.

If you have documents in the same year, you can put a month number (and a day if you wish) after the year and it will sort appropriately: 1851-06-15-HIGDON-Census.jpg. I currently use a, b, c, but may change my mind later if I get a lot of documents in the same year.

If you remember, my binders are organized by each couple and their children except the child I’m descended through. You can see in the image above that the child I’m descended through has a note in the folder name indicating where I will find that child’s information. The rest of the children have their own sub-folder and they are ordered by birth order using the notation “(ch#)” in the file name.

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed some files with “wcit” in the filename. That is a duplicate of the image, usually, that has been copied into a word processing file (in my case I use Mac Pages, but you can use whichever software you desire). To that image, I’ve added a text box with the citation to the page to provide “separation safeguards” which prevent separation of an image from its source (citation) information.1 I want to save both the original and the citation-treated images in my digital folder.

This is a work in progress. I didn’t sit down and fix all of my digital files as soon as I learned this naming convention. (Who has the time?) I fix it as I work on various projects in my family. One of the things about getting organized is that it doesn’t happen overnight or in one session of organizing. Make a commitment to work on it 15 minutes a day, or an hour a week, or whatever timeframe works in your schedule.

But most of all, get started! And keep learning!


1. See standard number 8, “Separation Safeguards” in Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, 2nd ed. (Nashville: Ancestry.com, 2019).

Getting Organized: More on the Binders

I know last week I said we would talk about the digital side of my organization system, but I got a lot of questions and comments from the last post asking for more specifics about the binders. I thought I’d dig a little bit more into that this time.

I mentioned that each binder in MY system is focused on a couple and their children, EXCEPT that through which I’m descended through.

The binder organization is broken down like this:

Binder Map

Each document is in chronological order, forming a visual timeline of their lives. In the back are divided sections for each of their children, except for the one who is my ancestor. They will have their own binder. Rinse and Repeat.

If you think of your pedigree chart, each couple is their own binder. The binder follows the pedigree chart. In the visualization below, each matching colored box represents one binder:

Binder pedigree

Now, as you move back in time, you may find you have fewer documents. For the couples that I do not have that much on (yet), I might put several generations in one binder until it gets too full and needs to be separated due to space issues. For those that I have done a ton of work on, I will get a 2″ or 3″ binder for their documents. Whatever size, I always make sure to get the kind with the clear slip-in fronts, backs, and spines. Then I clearly label what is in each binder.

If for some reason, I do a lot of research on one of the children for a couple that is NOT my direct ancestor, they may get their own binder. In their parents’ binder, I will still include a divided section for them with a sticky note or piece of paper inserted telling me where their information can be located. I will mirror this information on the binder spine.

When discussing the binders, I often get asked about archival quality binders, paper, what do I do with my original documents, etc. MY system is not a system where I keep any original documents. Most of the time, I am obtaining photocopies of documents whether it be from a repository or downloaded from the internet. I am not preserving documents that cannot be obtained again. I have very few of those in my possession. What I do have, I have in archival boxes. Smaller items are in an archival folder my fire safe (I only have a small one) and larger items are in their archival folders but stored flat in a plastic box that will protect them from water damage. Now, if we have a massive fire or a major flooding event, I’m not delusional. I know that these methods may fail. If the worst does happen, I do have most of my materials digitized (even those that are irreplaceable) and backed-up on the cloud. (Like all good genealogists I know, a few projects are still waiting to be done.)

I hope this helps explain the binders and the system in more detail. Next week we will move on to the digitized aspect of MY system. I promise.