Saturday, September 30, 2017

Welcome to Fall: Now, Start Cleaning

Everyone talks about spring cleaning, but it isn't often I hear any mention of fall cleaning—at least not around here in "sunny" California. This season, however, I think I'm ready to do some fall cleaning, despite the blue skies and lingering balmy temperatures.

Back east, where I grew up, there was a definite list of fall cleaning tasks to do before the winter set in. That included everything from washing the windows after taking down the screens to make way for that second set of storm windows, to getting everything spruced up before the beginning of winter holidays. Some tasks were fun, of course, simply owing to the anticipation of good times ahead. Others were jobs that simply needed to be done to get ready for the howling winds, rainstorms and snow that could arrive as early as mid-October.

With sunshine and a high of eighty five predicted here for today, it's not likely I'll be spending this Saturday on such grunt work, though. However, for the coming month, I want to set up a plan for a different kind of fall cleaning: cleaning out my decades worth of genealogical records. We're already in a decluttering mood here at Chez Stevens, so why not add that massive obligation to the cleaning list?

I realize that is a rhetorical question, but there are actually some reasons why I haven't already done a genealogical cleanup. Foremost among them is the fact that the thrill of the hunt is much more alluring than the tedium of the aftermath. With the number of ancestors to research doubling with each successive generation, there is always an elusive relative taunting me from behind the firewall of yet another online research repository.

Second is the situation of the constantly changing database storage scenario. When I first started researching, I could house the records I found in notebooks. Then folders in file cabinet drawers. Then boxes in storage. Then, with the dawn of the magic of digital record keeping, on a desktop-resident program (like, in my case, FamilyTreeMaker). Then, even easier, online via programs at Ancestry or FindMyPast or MyHeritage. Each new option had its pluses—and also its downside. Each new option also demanded its own time sync in the form of a steep learning curve and requirements for upkeep. I kept tap dancing to keep up—while scattering the litter of bygone records management tools in my wake.

As I stall out on my latest ancestral quest—that of seeking my migrating Broyles, Davis and Tilson lines heading through colonial Virginia—I think I'll put all new research projects on hold and see if I can take a month to sort out some very old documents and decide which ones to keep, which ones to toss, and which ones to follow up on. I'll revisit that trio of mysterious migrants later, but for the month of October, I'll be in search of some ideas for organizing what I've already gleaned from several decades of genealogical fun. 

Above: "Hook Mountain on the Hudson River," 1867 landscape by American artist Sanford Robinson Gifford; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. Oh yes! "The thrill of the hunt" is so much more fun.

    1. Jackie, I'm positive that thrill of the hunt is what resonates with all of us researchers and binds us into a unique fellowship. And isn't it grand that we all have that mutual fascination of the pursuit?, back to that drudgery...grumble...grumble...

  2. I agree, cleaning out "stuff" is boring, but necessary. Perhaps you will stumble across some great info!! :)

  3. I'm looking forward to reading how you accomplish this. I want to do the same, but will have to wait until spring after my portfolio is turned in.


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