Developing a Research Plan for the New Year

A Genealogy Tip By Joan Young

Genealogists have been commenting as long as I’ve been online that activity always drops off dramatically near the end of the year as the holiday season approaches. Each new year brings with it renewed interest in posting on mailing lists and message boards and updating family trees. Families traditionally gather over the holidays. This instills renewed interest for many family historians. Researchers receive holiday gifts of new computers and software and become eager to make use of it. This year will, undoubtedly, be no different. We can all benefit by approaching this new year with a plan of action rather than diving in unprepared.

Developing a Plan
First, take inventory. Make an outline of what you know and have learned over the past year (or decade) and what you hope to learn this year. Make a list of all documents you have obtained (wills, vital records, deeds, for example).

Next, make a list of your goals for the new year. What are you looking for and what do you hope to accomplish? Be specific when writing down your plans. Make note of the online resources at your disposal to help you reach your goals. Web sites such as Cyndi’s List and Linkpendium can prove invaluable for locating online resources.

Finally, do a search for your previous archived mailing list and message board posts as well as any family trees and data you have placed online. You may use a site such as Google or search the specific archives or board systems. If you have a genealogy Web site, review your pages and pinpoint corrections and additions you need to incorporate. Review posts and existing trees. Is your e-mail contact information still valid and is your online data still accurate and complete in view of what you learned over the past year? Make a list of necessary updates and corrections.

Getting Started
For posts and submissions that are still current but have outdated contact information, edit your e-mail address where possible. Even the most complete and well-written list or board post or family tree will serve no purpose to help you connect with your cousins if your e-mail address is invalid. You can update your e-mail address for the RootsWeb/Ancestry message boards and WorldConnect trees at: (http://email.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin13/DM/y/nBEN80WKNnf0HQR0zHg0GQ ) or by following the masthead links at the top of the main Ancestry page . Click on COLLABORATE, then PUBLIC PROFILE, and then MY SITE PREFERENCES. You will see a link for changing your e-mail address on the MY SITE PREFERENCES page as well as options for its display.

For mailing list archives where editing your address isn’t possible, post a new message with your current contact information. Remember that mailing list archives such as those at RootsWeb are merely a record of what took place on a given date. You can provide updated information and queries as well as a current e-mail address in your new posts.

If an online tree needs attention, download a GEDCOM file of the old tree and import it into your genealogy program on your computer. After you have made all necessary additions and corrections, create a new GEDCOM and upload it to replace your outdated tree.

If you have gathered public documents, perhaps a pension file or deed, over the past year consider transcribing them and placing the data online. RootsWeb/Ancestry message boards are a perfect place to post your finds. Choose the appropriate data classification when posting so that others may easily find the documents.

Get the new year off on the right foot by making a resolution to establish a plan. Follow through with your plan and your efforts will surely be rewarded.

Reprints
Permission to reprint articles from RootsWeb Review is granted unless specifically stated otherwise, provided:
the reprint is used for non-commercial, educational purposes; and
the following notice appears at the end of the article:

Previously published in RootsWeb Review: 13 January 2010, Vol. 13, No. 1

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