Saturday, January 2, 2021

Getting Systematic About Reaching Goals


Welcome to the twenty first year of the twenty first century.

Not that we're out of last year's mess yet, but the main point is: we need to keep looking forward. The best way to handle that viewpoint is to come up with a plan—and in our case here, we are looking at ways to approach family history research from a distance. In other words, we need a system for achieving our research goals, despite the inability to travel or do hands-on work.

I've always valued systems thinking, much more than the traditional "New Year's Resolutions" way of approaching life. If I set up a system to accomplish new tasks, I am much more likely to make things happen by making things habits than I ever could with the good intentions which spawn resolutions. I barely could make it out of January with resolutions I've made in the past, but when I set up a system to insure I take certain steps, success usually gets baked right into the venture.

Not that I don't applaud those who take up, say, thirty-by-thirty research challenges. I know those techniques have helped a lot of people make progress with their family history research. But the momentum runs down when the month runs out; I need something that gets worked into my schedule on a daily basis. A habit.

Hence, my Twelve Most Wanted for the upcoming year. If I lay out a plan for key points I want to cover in the year's research, they seem to become more do-able. One ancestor a month doesn't ask much of a researcher, especially if the time to pursue the goal is already worked into the daily schedule. And once the system seems to work well, why not repeat it for the upcoming year? Embed these goals and activities into the daily routine, don't just make them a lofty dream.

With that in mind, for Ancestor #8 in 2021, I have another of my father-in-law's ancestors whom I need to see more clearly: a descendant of the Flannery clan. Fortunately for me, I discovered long ago that a Flannery association banded together in the early days of the Internet to preserve what could be found mentioning any Flannerys in County Tipperary, the very location where Margaret Flannery married Denis Tully and became one of my father-in-law's eight great-grandparents.

The story doesn't end in Ireland, of course. That same couple—Denis and Margaret Tully—moved their young family from their homeland in the midst of the Great Famine, and relocated to "Canada West." Fortunately, they didn't travel alone, and though I can't locate any passenger records for their journey across the Atlantic, I can find not only their records after arrival in Ontario, but signs that another Flannery family may have traveled with them.

Perhaps this year, for me, will be the year of the collateral lines. I often find that siblings of the direct lines I'm researching can lead me around a brick wall situation toward the useful answers I've been seeking. For Ancestor #8, Margaret Flannery, I'll be taking a serious look at all the Flannery folks I can find in her neighborhood. Perhaps one of them will lead me home to her parents' information, back in Ireland.

That collateral line plan, of course, is yet another example of letting the system do the heavy lifting for us in our ongoing family history research. Yes, it may turn out that there are still no usable documents online containing the Flannery names I'm seeking, but by following a research system, I'm already scheduled to set aside a month for that very purpose: to find what new details can be unearthed about a specific family line which, in the past, kept me from making research progress.   

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