I don't mean to rush things, but being past the winter solstice gives that illusion of having more time. We are now on our way to more daylight, more warmth, more...well, whatever you fancy to be an encouraging sign.
Of course, the next few days are set aside to enjoy the Christmas holiday, but I also see one additional lift to the spirits heading this way: the hope placed in a new year. The week between Christmas and New Year's Day has always been my favorite time to retreat from the rush to plan out what I hope to accomplish for the upcoming year.
Genealogy always figures prominently in that time of planning. For the past two years, I have tried a new strategy to guide my research plans for the upcoming year. I call that seeking my "Twelve Most Wanted"—the ancestors for whom I most want to find more information. For each day of the proverbial Twelve Days of Christmas leading up to Epiphany, I select one ancestor to feature, laying out what is lacking in that person's story and targeting an upcoming month to concentrate on achieving the specified research goal.
Some months, I've selected an ancestor on the direct line of either my family or my husband's family. Other times, I've fingered a relative from an ancestor's collateral line, often in hopes that the process will help uncover the information I couldn't figure out about my direct line ancestor. A few times, I've even gone farther afield, selecting a person to research who is more friend than family in my F.A.N. Club—like my godmother's father Michael Melnitchenko, or King Stockton, the former slave who maintained a lifelong relationship with my second great-grandfather.
For each upcoming year, I distribute the choices among four different family groups. For the first three months of the year, I concentrate on my mother's ancestors. The second quarter of the year is dedicated to the ancestors of my Ohio-born mother-in-law, and as we move into the third quarter, I shift to examine the challenges from my father-in-law's side of the family. The last three months of the year I tackle my father's difficult-to-trace Polish ancestors.
With that plan, I distribute my research efforts among all four branches of our family's heritage. Using the Twelve Most Wanted approach enables me to lay out a basic road map for the upcoming year. Details like trips I plan to take figure prominently in this planning session, as well, and hopefully the upcoming year will see more opportunities to access repositories in person.
Now who would have guessed a few silly extra moments of sunshine could inspire such enthusiasm for planning out a new year of research? If you have a few quiet moments to yourself before the end of this holiday season, I hope you will join me in planning your research adventures for next year, too.