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John Hilyard Family ca. 1909

Monday, October 31, 2016

All's Quiet On the Blogging Front; or, How Much Can One Genealogist Actually Accumulate? Don't Ask.

I haven't been posting much lately, but happily not for lack of genealogy. I've been in overdrive on several projects, and want to share a few with you.
Gravestone of my 5th great-grandmother Elizabeth Hill Grinter; part of my ongoing digital organization project

The Great Software Changeover

It was announced late last year that the Family Tree Maker software that I have used in some form or another for 20 years was no longer going to be supported. Like many others, I was at first unhappy with this sea change that was being forced upon me. I decided, upon the recommendation of many bloggers and podcasters, to switch to RootsMagic. Rootsmagic had the business savvy to offer a good deal to new users when Ancestry made their announcement.

My software stayed in the box for several months until I decided how I was going to handle things. I'll admit, I had been entering stuff in Family Tree Maker (FTM) willy-nilly for years. Sourceless, unsubstantiated stuff. I'll even admit to having just a few "Ancestry Family Tree" sources in there. Just a few though! With over 17,000 people in my database, I needed to make some changes.

I finally decided that I was going to do my own form of the Genealogy Do-Over begun two years ago by Thomas MacEntee, creator of the excellent Geneabloggers community.  Rather than throw everything out the window as he suggests, I decided to start with a clean slate. Not import data over from FTM, even though RootsMagic made that incredibly easy for us converts, but rather start with me. Type in my name. And source EVERYTHING.

Do you have ANY idea how tedious this was at first?

I was bogged down in the beginning with the learning curve of the new software. Once I grew accustomed to it, things sped up considerably. But now the task of proving every. Single. Thing. How did I know my own birthday? My parents' wedding day? Could I prove my grandparents were really my grandparents? For someone working mainly in the 1700s, these seemed so...almost trivial? Of course I know when my parents got married. I am fortunate enough to still be able to ask them. But that is not exactly proof.

So, I have been gathering birth certificates, death certificates, marriage records. Censuses. Probate. One eye-opener for me was realizing that all the documents I had linked to in Ancestry needed to be downloaded. I had not actually saved the documents themselves, only links to them.

RootsMagic promises that by the end of 2016, I will be able to sync my data in their program with my Ancestry family tree. When that happens, I will add a second RootsMagic database where I import it ALL. Until then, I am quietly chipping away at what I am calling my Fact Tree.

Which brings me to my second big project of late:

Digital Organization

There has been much talk of this lately in genealogy blogs. I purchased Drew Smith's excellent book, "Organize Your Genealogy" which came out this summer. This isn't strictly about digital organization but goes into it and was the catalyst for much discussion.

I had already followed the framework for my digital files suggested by Lisa Louise Cook in her free genealogy podcast, Family History: Genealogy Made Easy. It makes sense to me, and I have been able to find any file I need without racking my brain.

My digital organization project has included setting up a consistent naming system for my files. To maintain this consistency, I had to write myself an Evernote note with templates on how I name everything. I have used this so many times!

Now I have (most) of my existing digital files organized, I have to attack the files and binders full of 26 years or more of my old-school paper research.  I love having the ability to pull up documents from anywhere on any device via Google drive and Evernote. I want to be able to do that with all my papers. Oh, and don't forget the photos. Sigh.

Ongoing Research

Finally, I have been continuing to do some onsite research for my Hilyard line. Most recently my cousin and I visited the Allen County Public Library. The last time I was there was 1997. I honestly didn't recognize the place. One librarian said they had a complete makeover about 10 years ago. We were there all day (and part of the evening as they had Midnight Madness going on) and I doubt if we even scratched the surface of what they have.
My 15 minutes of fame: a book I donated in 1997!

1 comment:

  1. Great job! Love reading about your organization and love that we are doing it together! Me, for the first time, and you redoing things!