Genealogy Do Over – It’s Harder than You Think!

We are in the 4th week of the 13 week Genealogy Do-Over lead by Thomas MacEntee.  I have found it a lot harder than I expected and for different reasons than I had anticipated.  Here is my progress so far:

Week 1 – 2-8 January 2015

  • Setting Previous Research Aside
  • Preparing to Research
  • Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines


Setting previous research aside was not so hard.  I have most of my research in binders in a book shelf in my extra bedroom, so I left them there.  I put all my electronic copies of my documents in a folder called “Hold Genealogy”.  I started a new family tree in Legacy with just me.

Establishing base practices and guidelines was a little harder. I wanted a process that I could really follow and not fall apart.  Many thanks to the people who posted their guidelines and processes that they came up with. I borrowed pretty heavily from Jenny Lanctot. (Check out her blog Are My Roots Showing?)

Here is my version:

rj research process

Week 2 – 9-15 January 2015

  • Setting Research Goals
  • Conducting Self Interview
  • Conducting Family Interviews


Definitely the worst week.  I now understand why I started with my grandmother when I began researching 6 years ago.  My immediate family is complicated with multiple families within. I literally don’t know some of my siblings.  I had a list of 20 basic questions I did not know about my parents, their spouses and their children. Really, can I skip this part? Sometimes working with the living is harder than the dead.

I conducted the self-interview and biography. Another walk down memory lane which was probably necessary, but not fun.  Hopefully, my children will appreciate it when I am gone. Did I mention I really like researching dead people better?

As far as conducting family interviews – My mother and my adoptive father have passed away, so I can’t interview them. (Everyone doing this project or genealogy in general, curses themselves for not interviewing their relatives when they were alive.) When I was in college I interviewed my parents and did a timeline of both of their lives for a Sociology class. I need to go through my boxes in the garage to see if I kept them.

I dug out my interview notes from Grandmother. Another genealogical embarrassment. Every time I am in California to see my Grandmother, I ask her questions.  She is 97, so I ask her questions when we are out to dinner, in a coffee shop or whenever the time seems right and she is comfortable discussing the past.  She does have a good memory for someone who is 97, but there a lot of topics she has deliberately wiped clean.  My interviews are on napkins and any type of paper I have in my purse at the time.  I have not been very diligent about getting all of these typed up…..urgh.

Grandma Interviews

Week 3 – 16-22 January 2015

  • Tracking Research
  • Conducting Research


I watched Thomas MacEntee’s webinar on Legacy, which was very helpful.  Until then I hadn’t been convinced to use his research log/tracking method, but afterward I could see how it could work and I could be successful.  Here is a link to the research log in Week 3.

Week 4 – 23-29 January 2015

  • Managing Projects and Tasks
  • Tracking Searches


Ah, this is an area I am familiar with.  Having been a project manager for many years, I can track a project, tasks and my searches.  No, I haven’t been good about it for genealogy….but this a chance for a Do Over!

I think the biggest challenge to keeping track of your look-ups is when you really aren’t doing a research project.  For example, I got a link for the NARA WWII enlistments yesterday from the NGS blog. I thought I would check it out while I had my e-mail up. I put in some information about one of my WWII ancestors and didn’t get a result, I tried another and did get a result.  Did I put any of them in a research log???? No……  Because I really wasn’t working a research question.

See what I mean, it’s harder than you think.  But it’s not impossible.

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7 Responses to Genealogy Do Over – It’s Harder than You Think!

  1. Val Sanford says:

    Fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing, Rachelle. I like the idea of a ‘do over’ and will use it sometimes to give me a little permission to start fresh rather than be guilty. Can’t wait for Salt Lake City next month and RootsTech to beat me into submission about research logs. 🙂

  2. jennylanctot says:

    It’s hard to go back and do everything over, especially if you’re in danger of creating the same mess again the second go-round (like me). That’s why I needed that process map. On more than one occasion (already) I have had to stop myself from moving forward when I wasn’t finished with a step. Eventually (I hope), it will become second-nature to follow that process. Until then, it will be a struggle. But if I want a reliable, fact-filled genealogy, it’s totally worth it 🙂

    Good luck!

    • Rachelle says:

      I know! I have to put my process map right next to my computer to constantly remind myself to not go astray. I do not want to face the print out of my pedigree charts with unsubstantiated “facts” anymore or try to find the documentation only to see that I didn’t write down the repository or the film # etc. Good luck to you too!

  3. Rachelle says:

    I wish I could be with you when you go to SLC! I think being disciplined on a research trip is extremely difficult. It’s one thing to keep track of those items you were planning on researching and marking your results etc. It’s a completely different “ask” to write down the things you weren’t planning on looking at and writing down all of the citations and the results of the search. Oh, but you will pay down the line if you don’t!

  4. Pat Burns says:

    I can relate to so much you are experiencing. The only difference for me, is that when I find something when going ‘off track’, I do log it. It does answer a question, just not the one you were searching. So I log it in and source it so I don’t have to rework it. I think we all have our own little ways we’re comfortable with, so whatever works is what we should do. I look at end results and the quality. 🙂

    • Rachelle says:

      Oh you are so right! I should log it and I need to create research logs for all my families so I can catch all those ad hoc searches that I wasn’t “planning”. I was just admitting how I had gone off track already!

  5. Pingback: GDO1: My Golden Rules of Genealogy – Kassandra Morrison – Me for the World to see

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