Sunday, January 21, 2024

Confession of a Disorganized Researcher


Lately, it seems I've been seeing a lot of articles online about getting organized. Maybe it comes with the New Year buzz—"new year, new you" et cetera—or surfs the crest of the New Year's wave toward spring cleaning. Confession: when it comes to advice like that, I usually look the other way. One notorious quality of mine is my dis-organization, and I'm afraid I'll likely tend toward that fault in the future, as well. (Besides, I like chasing down those rabbit trails.)

On second thought, as I turn a blind eye and deaf ear (may as well be thorough) to those wise words about organization, I decided not to beat myself up so badly. I have, after all, set up a system to handle my family history explorations—that's a type of organization, isn't it? The overarching outline is the Twelve Most Wanted I've set as my research projects for each year, with the subheading of rounding up all DNA matches for each designated ancestor's descendants, primarily through's ThruLines tool. 

Then there are those even-huger projects I've consistently tackled, like my year-long Tilson project to map out all that colonial family's descendants and verify their place in the tree via documentation—a task which is now reaching into its second year of work. I'm far from seeing the end of that line, but I have a system to work my way through each branch of that family tree. While my papers may seem disheveled and disorganized, my work flow follows a set pattern.

One result of that plan is seeing the progress on my biweekly check-in. Progress reports help bolster that energy which keeps a project moving forward. For instance, who wouldn't be encouraged to see 451 new individuals added to the family tree with two weeks' work? That's what happened in the last two weeks as I work through my mother's ancestral Carter family—and, of course, also keep plugging away at that Tilson project. That family tree now contains documents—digitized documents, of course—on 37,050 relatives. And that all happened, bit by bit. Over years.

Granted, there are some unexpected occurrences which do pop up, and there is always a way to fit those research surprises into the week. Discovery of a new DNA match on my mother-in-law's line called for a quick check of her records, which led to adding five new names to that tree, even though that's not part of my research task for January. Stuff happens, and sometimes the best time to handle the unexpected is right when it pops up. While that's not the main reason why my in-laws' tree now has 34,162 individuals—we'll get to that part of the research calendar in the spring—every little bit helps grow a family tree.


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