Thursday, January 7, 2021

Baker's Dozen


It was during childhood trips to the local bakery when I learned from my dad just what a "baker's dozen" meant. I grew up in the New York City metro area, and we had specialty bakeries offering everything from fresh-made bagels to Italian treats like the Neapolitan struffoli within driving distance. While struffoli might be just about the only dessert for which the generosity of a baker's dozen would be pointless, I quickly learned about the bonus that comes by ordering twelve.

Now that I've completed a listing of twelve items, myself—my Twelve Most Wanted for my research goals for 2021, I thought I'd close out the festive holiday season by throwing in a bonus, myself—an addendum to those thoughts about goals and genealogy. Searching for those twelve ancestors isn't the only task I've set for myself in the coming year, of course; I have far more that I hope to accomplish each month. I'm sure you do, too. Pushing back the generations on our forebears may be exciting when we locate that new name, but there are other goals to consider, as well.

As I work my way backwards in time, hacking away at those brick wall ancestors, I need to consider the clutter that always seems to be left in the wake of that accomplishment. I am still unearthing old records and files from storage boxes, and realizing I need to align what I now have in digital format with those old "notes to myself" from a lifetime of research.

This is where the system approach I mentioned the other day comes in: I have to develop a way to dispatch those stacks of paper without destroying any document not already duplicated in my virtual records. I could take the heroic approach and say I'm going to sit at my computer and enter all the data until the stack is gone—ta da!—but we all know such an approach rarely brings us to the finish line in one sitting. Thus, the plan for a system to tackle the paper pile. In my case, I'm just going to take the reasonable road: do one page of records each day. Easy and do-able. And hopefully, soon done.

Another goal that needs to be built concurrently with a research system is that of continuing education. As these ancestral quests lead to strange new territory, I find myself researching areas with which I am totally unfamiliar. Not to worry, as I've learned to grasp tools to help chart those unfamiliar research territories, but I need to remember that we never really stop learning, even in a task as repetitive as backtracking the begats. While the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy—soon to start, this month—takes up a significant portion of my time in January, I want to develop a system to continue that learning habit throughout the year. Involvement with my local genealogical society will help bolster that learning curve, as will visits to other society meetings, whether across the state or across the continent. Video meetings are like that: breaking the barriers of distance.

A third bonus goal is to keep writing. While we may find those new names and dates we covet as family history researchers, what makes the data points come alive for the rest of our family is the way we connect those dots to piece together our ancestors' stories. I hope you will join me in finding time to reconnect those family history dots into stories to encourage and inspire your own family's trail through the challenges we face now as we move into this new year.  


  1. I need to tackle that some day too! You are adding to your list of things to do!

    1. I am not as great a list-maker (and list *keeper*) as you are, Far Side, but I find if I adopt overarching goals as guiding principles, I can actually manage to get some things done, after all.


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