The advice to develop a research plan is wisely heeded by anyone pursuing the secrets of their family history, but there is a corollary to that advice: a plan only helps if you actually implement it. You need to work that plan.
Over the years, I've added specific research protocols to develop my own system. I have a yearly planning time—during that quiet time between Christmas and New Year's Day—to lay out my overarching research goals for the upcoming year.
That, however, is not my only set of goals. Once I opted to put DNA testing to work on my genealogical puzzles, that decision presented another set of research requirements to follow up on. After all, what's the use of spending all those hard-earned dollars on DNA tests, if we don't make the results work hard for us in return? And voilà! Another system developed to periodically check those latest DNA matches at the five companies where I have our family's test results.
A third system evolved from that same situation: in order to figure out who all those mystery fourth cousins actually are, I needed to find a place for them in my family trees. Thus began the long process of adding all the collateral lines for each generation in our family trees. Hence the sky-high numbers I mention every two weeks in my tally report.
All that resulted in some encouraging progress these past two weeks on my husband's family tree. For one thing, this month's research goal of focusing on my mother-in-law's Flowers and Ambrose roots brought a large number of added cousins to her part of the tree. Those additional 323 names can mostly be attributed to the work on my mother-in-law's roots, although a sizable portion of that number came from applying that third system—adding to the collateral lines—to update my father-in-law's roots, as well. All told, that tree now has 21,314 documented family members.
While the past two months have seen research goals devoted to work on my mother-in-law's tree, I kept working on that third system for my own family tree, as well. It's a plodding approach in which I sweep systematically through every family line, keeping careful track of where I leave off at the end of each session. I try to be even-handed in that I work on all four branches of our family trees: my in-law's two sides, as well as the sides for each of my own parents.
Despite focusing mainly on my mother-in-law's family this month, I was able to add seventy four documented individuals to my own tree in the past two weeks, leaving that tree at 25,982 names. Progress on my tree will likely remain slow throughout the summer, as I turn from research goals involving my mother-in-law to that of her husband in July. I will again pick up the research tasks for my own family in the last quarter of this year with a focus on my father's lines.
The three systems woven into these research plans help to keep up the steady progress. Progress, in turn, begets encouragement—and we all can use some research encouragement from time to time. As simple as a research plan may seem, though, it does require persistence to bring results. That old saying, "Plan your work, but work your plan," must have been spoken by the voice of experience.