Saturday, November 7, 2020

Research and Goal Setting


Don't look now, but in no time at all, it will be the start of a new year. That, of course, will touch off a volley of New Year's resolutions—a habit I've refused to engage in. There is, however, one year-end tradition I would like to repeat—if a program participated in only once can qualify as a "tradition." That new-to-me tradition will be the research goal-setting effort from this past year I've dubbed my "Twelve Most Wanted."

I'm not entirely sure I've succeeded in completely discovering everything I had hoped for in this initial year. Giving myself one entire month to research just one ancestor seemed amply generous when I launched this program, but from the perspective of a year in review—which I'm soon to face—I'm not sure I'll deem it a success. For having at least tried, though, I can say I'm that much closer to success than I would have been, had I done nothing. These things are important reminders to clutch in desperation at such times of doubt.

The benefits to at least naming, if not claiming, my goals are multiple. Back in January, faced with the prospect of at least two (well, surprise, before March's dire quarantine sanctions) trips to the world's most complete genealogical reference library, having a list of my Twelve Most Wanted helped focus my efforts in Salt Lake City. Those goals also helped delineate research direction when, swamped with all the next-step possibilities coming at me, I would otherwise have been stymied with indecision over which next move to take along the timeline. Having the names laid out also ensured that my research focus wasn't lopsided or partial to only one branch of the family; I made sure to include an equal amount of names from each of four family trees.

Looking back over the year, I can say I haven't conquered as much as I had hoped—but in what year has any of us managed to make such a claim? Genealogical research is like that: we never know if we are going to conquer that unknown. If we draw that bottom line clearly, though, we provide ourselves a measuring stick to better make that determination.

As for the remainder of this year, I'm still pedaling as fast as I can toward that research finish line. I have three final ancestors to review, and I'm certainly motivated to make progress on those mystery ancestors on my paternal side. I will take some time in December to draw up a final reflection on what was gained for 2020. But I won't be lingering long on that. While I'll undoubtedly keep working, in times to come, on the unfinished research business from this year, I'll be setting my sights on what's to come for 2021: a new set of those Twelve Most Wanted, one for each month of a new year.

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