Category Archives: Genealogical Goals

Goals and plans for my genealogical career.

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.

My Lineage Society Goals

I know you’ve probably heard about DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) (I’ve joined under my ancestor Samuel Dimmick #A032219) and the Mayflower Society (General Society of Mayflower Descendants) (as far as I can tell, I didn’t have any ancestors on the Mayflower, but I’m still looking).

There are a wide variety of lineage societies, however. You probably qualify for several. Many are state or regional such as the many “First Families of _____ ” (insert a state) or “Descendants of _____” (insert a military action or special group). Regardless of which society, they all have something in common: “A lineage society is an organization created to honor a specific heritage or event. Members of lineage societies must prove their descent of that heritage or event through industry approved genealogical proof standards.”1 We like to honor our ancestors and our heritage in many ways.

I recently mailed in an application to the National Society Descendants of American Farmers (NSDOAF). This is a relatively new society, who is at the time of this writing, still accepting charter lifetime members (through 30 November 2019). The qualifications:

Membership is open to Men and Women 18 years of age or older who are lineal descendants of a “farmer” living within the present boundaries of the United States between July 4, 1776 – December 31, 1900.

Miller_William and Carrie
William and Carrie (Limmer) Miller, date unknown.

I am applying under my great-grandfather, William John Miller. I am named after his wife Carrie Ann (though mine is spelled differently). They helped raise my grandpa after his mother died shortly after his younger brother was born. I never had the chance to meet them but my grandpa always spoke very highly of them. He wanted to be a farmer and when he could afford it, bought 80 acres near his grandparents in Perrysburg Township, Wood County, Ohio.

So many times as a genealogical speaker, I hear people say something along the lines of “my ancestors were just farmers, they didn’t do much.” To that I say “baloney.”2 They worked to feed their community and their nation. They deserve as much recognition as anyone and I hope if you have farmers in your family tree (most of us do), that you consider honoring their unsung service to America by joining NSDOAF. The qualifications are pretty easy!

If you want an interactive group while you are preparing your application, they have a Facebook group where you can ask questions, get the forms, and generally be supported. (I received word via the group that my application was received and approved!)

(Now to finish my Daughters of 1812 application…)


1. From “Quick List of Lineage Societies” on Lineage Society of America (viewed 10 July 2019).

2. Or is that “bologna”?

Giving Back – Part 5 – Give Money

Maybe you just don’t have time to do any of the options I’ve described in this series of blog posts. If so, then maybe you can work a little charitable giving into your budget. There are three distinct ways that come to mind if giving money is your preferred method of giving back to the genealogical community:

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of genealogical societies across the United States, not to mention around the world. Perhaps you are a member of one or maybe you know of one in your area. Maybe you need to look one up. I know many genealogists are members of more than one society. I am a member of some in my local area as well as in areas in places where I research. Many of these societies are 501c3 organizations meaning they are non-profits and your contribution is tax-deductible. At the very least, you could consider becoming a member of one or two (or more) of these societies. Your membership fees help societies offer free programs and genealogical education to the public. To find a genealogical society, use the Federation of Genealogical Societies’ database or do a Google Search for your area.

There are a number of genealogical scholarships available. They are not all always well publicized but there is a good list of some on Cyndi’s List. You could also decide to set one up yourself for a specific reason, in memory of someone, to send someone to a specific conference or institute each year, and so on. Or you could donate to a society or other body that already has a scholarship fund. This promotes mentorship and genealogical education at a higher level.

PreservePensions

My current favorite, one that will have a lasting effect on the genealogical community at large, is to donate to the Preserve the Pensions campaign. This project is seeking funding to digitize and make freely available through Fold3.com, the pensions of soldiers who served in the War of 1812. As of this post, the project is 50% funded. Ancestry.com has generously agreed to match funds, so your dollar goes twice as far!

So, if you can spare some money, there are plenty of genealogical needs that could benefit from your generous donation. Consider one of the above if cash is your preferred method of “giving back.”

Giving Back – Part 4 – Host and Edit a Website

htmlLet me just start by saying this one may not be for everyone. This option may take a little more technical skill than some are capable of or interested in. It requires you to be able to edit and maintain a website. This blog post is not going to go into the technical aspects of how to do this. If you already know how, great. If you are interested in doing it but don’t know how, there are plenty of online tutorials you can locate and maybe even some local classes to get you going. I will be highlighting a couple of projects that could use you. (Also, this is another one of those volunteering projects that can be done in your jammies!)

Actually … you can still help out if you don’t have the technical skills necessary; keep reading.

Many researchers know about the GenWeb project. There are two GenWeb options:

The US GenWeb covers all 50 states, at the state level and then with sites specific to most counties. The World GenWeb is similar in that it is broken down by region, country and then county, providence or other civil district type. Another website that is similar in structure is called Genealogy Trails and is dedicated to “keeping genealogy free.” It too is broken down by state and county. Both of these are run completely by volunteers and they are all constantly in need of people willing to maintain them.

These sites are only as good as those who contribute to and maintain them. You can elicit contributions from users as well as develop your own content. This doesn’t have to be a project where you provide all of the information posted on the site. The idea of these sites is that the information that is gathered is free for all to use. With that in mind, you have to be aware of copyright and don’t post things that aren’t in the public domain or of your own making (or that of another volunteer.)

Perhaps you don’t have the technical skills to be the website editor, YOU CAN STILL HELP! If you can type, you can contribute by transcribing records such as those found in a local courthouse, church, cemetery, library, etc. Things that are helpful are obituaries, death records, birth records, marriage announcements, baptisms, and so on. You can contact the manager of a county site and discuss project specifics such as what format to submit your transcriptions in and so forth.

Many of us started by searching some of these free sites, hosted by volunteers who have contributed countless hours for our benefit. If you have the skill, consider giving back by hosting, editing, maintaining or contributing to a genealogy website.

Giving Back – Part 3 – Monitor Message Boards

messageboard
The message board catalog at Ancestry.com.

Genealogy is a very collaborative activity. Think about every book you’ve accessed, every online site you’ve used, every lecture you’ve attended on genealogy. All of these were prepared by, indexed by or written by someone: a genealogist who wants to help you. (Ok, we could argue that big corporate sites like Ancestry.com and others are interested in their shareholders and the bottom line, but even those sites started somewhere with one person’s idea and a common goal of sharing genealogical research with others.) Generous genealogists spend hours in front of microfilm readers, in local archives, in cemeteries and elsewhere to put together many of the indexes we use everyday to move along our research.

Another way you can assist other researchers from the comfort of your own home, or through visiting local repositories on occasion, is by monitoring an online message board such as the combined boards at Ancestry.com and Rootsweb.com. These boards are organized by topic, surname or location. By watching the boards that interest you and sharing your expertise and/or offering to do look-ups (if you are willing to do that) you can answer researchers very specific questions or help them think of other avenues to research.

When I lived in Boulder County, Colorado, I monitored the list and volunteered to do look-ups, usually obituaries, to assist other researchers. (Since I moved, I am in the process of learning how I can do this in my local area.) I also watch surname boards for names I have in my own research to try to connect with other researchers working on the same line and to potentially answer questions I had perhaps already solved.

This option does not take up very much time, depending on the geographic locality or how many message boards you decide to help out. In Boulder, I may have had months with no questions or requests and then some months might have had 3 or 4. Plus you can choose not to answer them if the month is busy for you. This volunteering option is probably one of the least restrictive.

So, think about this as an option for helping fellow researchers. In our age of the Internet and fast communication, it is so much easier to collaborate and share information than it ever has been. Continuing in the collaborative and cooperative tradition of our genealogical forebears keeps the field of genealogy one of mentorship, and upon that friendships are built and cousins are found.

Giving Back – Part 2 – Indexing in Your Jammies

These are my "genealogy pants."
These are my “genealogy pants.”

I work from home. My commute is the 60-90 seconds it takes me to fill my coffee cup and head to my office. I am not too proud to admit that I sometimes trade my jammies for sweatpants. Sometimes, on particularly chilly, rainy days when I have no plans on leaving the house, I have been known, on occasion, to stay in my jammies. It’s one of the perks of working from home.

Another way to “give back” to the genealogical community, AND STAY IN YOUR JAMMIES, is through online indexing projects. Sometimes these might be sponsored by a local or state genealogical society. However, the largest online project is through FamilySearch Indexing. Since 2006, FamilySearch Indexing has been hosting indexing projects of thousands (millions?) of digitized records. (Their wiki page says they began this in 2006 but I recall that I was in attendance in 2005 at the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in Salt Lake City when they unrolled this to the public at a conference and I was among the first round of public volunteers to sign up.)

I am not going to describe the technical requirements to get started. Those can be found here. Let me just say that the process is very simple and can be done on either a Mac or PC. Once you sign up to be an indexer, you download a program that will allow you to choose from a variety of projects and then will download your batch of records to be indexed. Each and every project comes with its own set of instructions and help files, so don’t worry. If you are thinking, I don’t think I know how to do that, I encourage you to at least read about it and try it to see if you like it.

A few things that I have learned from doing this since 2005:

  • It takes a while to get more proficient at using the software, understanding the instructions, understanding how to download a batch, and so on. So the first few batches you do might take longer than you would like them to. Give it some time before you decide if you’d like to participate or not.
  • Since I have been doing the indexing with FamilySearch, I have become a lot better at reading old handwriting. If you find that you read a lot of old documents, there is nothing like transcribing and indexing to really make you see and understand that old script.
  • Working on a project like this can be a great way to challenge yourself. The program has a feature that allows you to set goals and keep track of how many names/records you’ve indexed. Setting a weekly, monthly or yearly goal is a lot of fun, if you are that kind of person. I enjoy seeing my numbers.
  • When you are using the FamilySearch Records (the portion of the site where you can actually see the digitized records) and you see that camera icon (meaning there are actual pictures of the documents) and then you see “Browse Images” or a number of records available, that tells you if the project has been handled by the indexing program. Often, I find the records I’d like to use have not been indexed yet. By giving up 5, 10, 20, 30 minutes of my day, I can advance a project that will eventually get posted to the Records section and this makes me feel like I’ve helped out other researchers. Goodness knows they’ve helped me!

    Dang, those records haven't been indexed yet!
    Dang, those records haven’t been indexed yet!

FamilySearch is not the only project out there. Some other projects to examine are:

If you are like me and sometimes like to stay in your jammies, AND you like helping out other researchers. Give an online volunteer project a try!