Monday, July 21, 2014

Getting Organized (Part 4.1): Linking Facts to The Sons of the American Revolution War Application Sources

In my last post, I discussed how to clean up and manage sources within your tree.  For this post, I am going to talk, specifically, about the Sons of the American Revolution applications that can be found online.  This is just my way of doing things, but I decided for the time being to ONLY link 4 things to each application: 

1) the applicant's name (There were many times that I had to open the application online in order see how the applicant was related to my ancestor and then had to add multiple people in my tree to get to the person who applied. *I only added the names and not birth dates/death dates/marriage dates or places that can be found within an application.* Taking the time to do this, however, has helped me discover siblings of my ancestors that I did not know about, which has been great!  It has also given me more names for my tree to help with my research as well as any cousin matches that get linked to my tree through the AncestryDNA test that I did.)

2) the applicant's birth date (I figured adding this information was pretty safe and accurate since the applicant is the one that filled that information in.) 

3) the name of the person the applicant is using for membership

4)a military fact for the person that served in the Revolutionary War (I had to go add this for most of the people) I typed "Revolutionary War" in the details part of the fact. 

You can see these four facts next to the arrow pointing to the left in the picture below.  

The next thing I did was take away all of the citation details and citation texts found on the right side of the screen and added my own text. (Again let me stress that there may be a much better way to do this, but the way I did it helped me accomplish what I needed it to and is very easy to hunt through.)  If there is someone out there that can tell me the formal/official way to do this, I am all ears! Here is the way I did it:

Line One: the name of the person that served in the Revolutionary War listed with last 
                   name first (all caps) followed by a comma and the rest of his name
Line Two: Revolutionary War
Line Three: SAR Application for (insert full name of applicant in all caps)

This was one of the sources where I discovered a whole bunch of duplicates - and I REALLY did not need 6 copies of a single application just because each summary page shown when you first go online lists a different person found in the application.  Labeling everything in the citation text section made it easy to get all of the duplicates next to each other so that I could figure out which one I wanted to keep.  I, personally, decided to keep the source citation that linked to the ACTUAL applicant's summary page or if that wasn't possible (because I didn't have that source citation in my current list), I saved the one that linked to the person that served in the Revolutionary War.  Goodbye duplicates!  More purging!!!!!  Woo-hoo!  Below is a picture of my new and improved list of Source Citations for the Sons of the American Revolutionary War Applications.  It is MUCH easier to sift through!

One thing I noticed was that I had records for multiple applicants that had applied for membership through the same person.  Listing the Citation Text as I mentioned above makes it SUPER EASY to check quickly whether or not I have that application already.  So, as I continue my research on and go through my green leaf hints and look through other SAR applications, I will be able to easily tell whether or not I have located a new source citation.

There is a wealth of information in each of these applications, so it is very likely that I will go back (at a later date) and decide to attach other facts (such as the names of the other parents listed in the application along with birth dates/places, death dates/places, and marriages/places), but since my goal has been to clean things out, the four facts I chose to link initially have done more than enough to get me on the right track.  PLEASE NOTE THAT SAR APPLICATIONS USED TO NOT REQUIRE AS MUCH PROOF AS THEY DO TODAY, SO BEFORE YOU ATTACH ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE FOUR FACTS I MENTIONED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE POST, YOU MAY WANT TO CHECK AND FIND OTHER WAYS TO CONFIRM THE INFORMATION.

I will discuss Linking Facts to the US Censuses in my next post.  Until then - have fun!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Getting Organized (Part 4): Working with Sources and Linking Them to People in Your Tree

While I am on the topic of digital files within my tree, let's talk about how I deal with sources. With over 6,000 people in my tree, it is very easy to have lots of little things fall through the cracks.  Going through sources has allowed me to catch many of these things.  It has also made me realize how much more proof I had in my trees than I had realized.  Even though I am deleting plenty of duplicates or useless sources, I am still managing to have more facts attached to sources than I had before I began - and now I know that the sources are legit and worth keeping. I am sure that there are other ways to do things, and if you have a better way, I am always open to suggestions, but for now, this is how I do it (and since my brain has not revolted and told me to take a long hike off of a short cliff, my plan is to continue to follow this path).   So, let's dive in!

As you have most likely figured out from my last post, I use Family Tree Maker, so I cannot tell you how other programs work, but I would assume that most programs have places to go to look at and work with sources that you have found (you may just have to play around with it to figure out the specifics, but the basic concepts should still be applicable). Let's start off by looking at the basics of this area of FTM 2014.  If you don't have FTM, it's OK - keep reading! This is the only part that is solely relivant to FTM.
           * The arrow pointing up shows where to click to find your sources all in one place.
           * The arrow pointing down lists all of the TYPES of sources you have in your tree.
           * The arrow pointing to the left shows where you can link specific people and facts                 to each source.  It is also where you find the chain icon that allows you to delete a 
                fact that should not be linked.    
           * On the right side of the screen you will find boxes with specifics about the
               document (which are completely editable).  
           * At the bottom of the right side (I forgot to put an arrow), the last row of words 
              says "View Source Online."  When you download from Ancestry, the program should               automatically makes a  link for you in this spot.  "Should" being the key word here.

When I began, the first thing I wanted to do was to figure out if there was anything I had that was easy to see it could be deleted.  And I wanted this done before I started my detailed assessment.  So, that is where we will begin.........

I started by going through to find all of the source titles that did not have media or a specific website attached (in FTM, you can figure this out by looking for the little scroll next to the source).  No scroll means no image, so I wanted to check to make sure I really needed the items listed with no scroll.  In the image above, you will notice there is no scroll next to the highlighted source and the arrow pointing down shows that there are no source citations, which means that there is no one attached to this source.  This meant that I absolutely didn't need this source!  I clicked the source one more time to make sure it was highlighted correctly and then hit the delete button on my keyboard.  It asked if I really wanted the source gone, I confirmed, and voila - it ceased to exist.  One down, now on to the next one!  I discovered that most of the sources without the scroll had nothing attached, so getting rid of those was pretty easy and quick.  (Note: To delete a source from the left column on the screen, you have to hit the delete button on the keyboard.  The delete on the screen found in the top right section will only delete source citations).   

Next, I moved on to Family Trees.  When I started doing my genealogy, I used other people's trees to help me build mine. I added trees and documents as they popped up on the leaves, thrilled with anything I found!  As I got farther into my research, I learned more and discovered that, although other people's trees are great places to jump off and may have some great information, they are NOT documentation.  Because of this, I do not use them as sources.  I deleted every source link for every tree that was listed as a source citation and got rid off all evidence that any other trees had been used.  This made it MUCH easier to see if I had REAL sources to prove what I had in my tree, which was wonderful!

Once those steps were complete, I started going through each source, one by one.  I decided to just take the bull by the horns and began at the top with the Censuses.  I realized pretty early on that I was quickly becoming overwhelmed and would never finish because of frustration, so I decided to stop midstream and went to the bottom to work my way up. MUCH better decision!  The censuses provide a TON of information (which is awesome!), but that meant that I was spending a lot of time on each one, and I felt like I was losing a relay to an undersized slug! With so much to do, this was NOT the time to get discouraged!

As I moved through the sources, I discovered a few things and thought I would share:

1.  When adding a source through, the option is given to link the source to specific facts for a person, but many times you can find more information that can be linked than was originally offered. There are also times that the program creates a duplicate fact when linking the source.  By going through each source and source citation separately, I was able to catch these mistakes.

2.  Sources and Source citations can be linked to specific facts and not just to a person in general. Media items can do this as well, but I felt like linking media items to more than just the person seemed to be slowing my program down, so I decided to leave the fact linking to sources (which works great!). I also made the decision to link EVERYTHING that was relevant to each source and am happy with this choice so far.  For instance, death certificates list a person's death date and place, birth date and place, parent names and sometimes their birth places, the burial date and place, cause of death, and the witness's name and residence (which can sometimes be a relative). When reviewing a source, If I didn't have the information found within it already listed for the person, I switched to the person view, added the information, and then went back to the source view to link it.  I even linked the "Also Known As" for many people if the document called the person by anything other than a full name or two initials before the last name.  If the information found in a source didn't match the fact I had, I either added an alternate fact that I could link it to or, if I knew that what the source stated was a mistake, just didn't link the source to that fact.  You can see below a list of multiple people attached to a city directory page, which tends to be another source that can give a wealth of information.

3.  There were some sources with a scroll next to them that had no online link (the arrow pointing to the right in the picture below is where the link should have been).  This source was for "Public Tree Stories."  It had one source citation that was attached to two facts (Stephen Hipp Sr.'s name and birth), but I could not figure out a way to get to the story to see what it said, so I clicked the picture of the chain right above Stephen Hipp Sr's name, removed the links, got rid of the source and moved on.  I figured if it was that difficult to find, I didn't need it and it needed to go.  It was very liberating!

4.  I discovered that it is not uncommon to find multiple family members listed on one page of a city directory, and sometimes I had a source citation for each person (meaning multiple copies of a single directory page).  Other times, I had only one source citation because I hadn't come across the hints for the other family members yet.  Here is my thought on this - I don't need every single person to have their own source citation when every one of the citations is documenting the exact same thing!  One copy is plenty - especially when I can link as many facts as I want to each source citation.  So, if I had more than one copy of the exact source citation (you can figure this out by clicking to see the source online and then clicking to see the original copy), I used the source citation with the summary page of the oldest direct descendant (IF that was one of the source citations I had to choose from), and deleted the others.  I then attached each relevant fact to the SINGLE source citation that I had kept.  I do not care that the online summary page does not show every person's name at the top.  The original copy is the only thing I care about and pay any attention to.

Since I am the QUEEN of making a short story long, I am going to stop for now.  I will try to talk about how I handled The Sons of the American Revolution Applications and US Censuses as sources in separate installments along with anything else that comes to mind. So, Happy Source Cleaning!  (Don't forget that drink - you will need it for this one!)!  BUT, you will feel SOOOOOOOO great knowing exactly what you have!  Getting this part organized will allow you to have a much better grasp of where you have already searched so that you don't spend time researching the same things over and over and over again!  It will also help you know where you REALLY have holes in your documentation where you still need to find evidence to prove what you have in your tree.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Getting Organized (Part 3): Dealing With Digital Media (Starting With What You Have in Your Family Tree)

At the beginning of this summer, I sat down and opened up my Family Tree Maker to decide what to work on this summer now that another school year had come to an end.  What I discovered VERY quickly was that my media files (.pdf and .jpeg) were in utter chaos.  I had somehow managed to accumulate multiple copies of a number of pictures in my Family Tree Maker program.  I also had a TON of pictures in a Dropbox file folder I created and labeled "genealogy" that had been a dumping ground for the past year and a half for any items I found in random old external hard drives and other digital folders and had no clue which pictures were duplicates, which had been uploaded into my tree and attached to people and which were sitting there forgotten.  Three copies of my grandfather's obituary here, two copies of the same picture of my grandmother there, and 5 copies of my 2nd great aunt's headstone over yonder.  To top it all off, most of the pictures had different file names (not necessarily with a (1) or (2) after it, but some with number file names and its "twin" with word file names.  Huh?  Where in the world did all of this come from?  To use one of my favorite phrases, "For the love of Pete," what had I done??????  Not only were there duplicates inside my actual Family Tree Maker program, but I couldn't figure out what I had already put it into my tree and what was just sitting on my computer in this long lost file.  So, I started at the beginning.  I first realized that I needed to deal with the pictures already inside my tree.  I had to somehow get all of the pictures together to see if there were in fact duplicates or if each picture was different.  The easiest way to do this in Family Tree Maker is to make the captions match, so I sat down and began the grunt work. (I have added the arrow to the picture below to show you where the caption box is.)
The program doesn't care if you have identical captions, so I decided to label each media item with the last name all caps, followed by the first and middle name and then what it was (i.e. headstone, letter, diploma, etc).  If it was just a picture of the person by him/herself, I left the caption as just the name.  For example, one of the pictures I have is labeled "ALDRIDGE, Edmund Carlton Jr. headstone".  As I went through each item, I wanted to make sure that everyone mentioned or photographed in the image was connected to it, so I spent most of my time in the "Detail" section. The arrow that is pointing up (in the picture below) shows where the tab can be found that switches the screen to that view.
The arrow pointing down (in the image above) shows where you can click to link the media to more people. The photo/scanned document in this screen shot is a telegraph that was sent to my grandfather by his brother about the birth of his daughter.  I wanted to make sure that I had my great uncle, his wife, and his daughter all attached to the media because all 3 were mentioned in it.  Here is where the FIRST "crap" moment happened - and trust me when I say that that is the nicest word I can say it.  I realized that I had somehow managed to add this scan without adding the daughter's birth date to her information.  So now, not only was I having to rename each caption AND link every person mentioned, I now needed to make sure that I had all of the information that the media item told me actually documented.  Pictures were a LOT easier to get through, but every time I got to an obituary or death record, I just wanted to cry.  I can assure you, I will NEVER add any new item without triple checking to make sure I have transferred all facts into the tree first. STUPID mistake!  If you don't learn anything else from this post - please remember that!  

Despite the amount of work that needed to be done, I started plugging away.  I got into a groove, and was actually beginning to make headway.  I even attached 60+ people to a .pdf file of a Dean and Brockman family genealogy ebook!  That was when the second "crap" moment happened.  Because I was attaching items to new people, was cataloging each new attachment as a new media item for the people involved.  I loved the idea that others would be able to find more information and new things on each person in my tree because of the grunt work I was doing and that they would be able to use these things to help with their genealogy research.  It helped make the task a little more bearable.  **I know that some people get all up in arms about "what's mine is mine" and "I put in the hard work and they are just taking it without the slightest show of gratitude", but I look at the mountains we all have to climb to get everything correctly done and documented in our trees and feel strongly about the fact that we will NEVER finish if people don't work together and share.  I share EVERYTHING I have in hopes that others will be willing to share with me.  I don't mean "I gave to you, now you give to me" but rather a pay it forward mentality.  (My tree is public for MANY reasons, including that one, but that is a discussion for another day and NOT going to be discussed any more right now.)  OK, back on track - What I did not realize was that once someone else attaches one of my media items to their tree, Ancestry's link summary page does not keep track of the fact that I was the one to originally link the media to that person, so LOTS AND LOTS of new "hints" came up for my Lake Family Tree on the website.  One day, I had a few minutes to spare and decided to look at the media hints for my tree, since it is pretty easy to see if the media items are relevant to the person. Now, I noticed that there were a lot of pictures that looked very familiar, but I could not figure out how to check the resolution of each one, and so rather than ignoring a picture that could have been a better quality version than the one I currently had, I decided to go ahead and attach it to compare at a later date.  I had no idea that I was downloading my own pictures because it showed the picture as being linked to someone else's tree and I had not yet discovered this little glitch in's website. SOOOOOOOOOO, 400 "new" media items later, I realized that I now had MORE duplicates to sort through!  Lesson learned the VERY hard way! (For those of you that have been following from the beginning of this series, this was the moment that my son heard me moaning and groaning!)

It took me a solid month (and some change) to complete the FIRST part of this "little" project, but I DID IT! I now have 2704 media items within Family Tree Maker that are cataloged and organized and all duplicates are gone.  I also have all information found in the media transferred to the tree (names, birth dates, death dates, spouses, places of residence, churches, burial information, etc.) and it has made a huge difference in the quality of my tree!  I still have a long way to go (since I haven't even begun looking through the "genealogy" folder), but feel great knowing that I am on my way and can now quickly figure out if something is an extra copies that can be sent to the recycle bin.

Keeping media items organized is important, and yet many times, it tends to be one of those things that takes the back burner because of everything else that we want to get done!  You may say "But it is in there, and I just want to focus on finding more documentation to prove what I have."  But you very well could be making more work for yourself in the long run.  When you attach a picture or a .pdf file, take the time to transfer the information and label it correctly.  Otherwise, you may end up where I was, which has put an absolute end to my researching for a good long while.  If you are where I was at the beginning of June, take the plunge! Even if you just commit to doing 10-20 minutes of sorting/organizing/cleaning up your media at each sitting. You will be happy you did it in the long run!  If you have been doing this all along, way to go!  You are much more with it than I have been.  I started this journey as a clueless "newbie" enjoying a fun little pass time and have had to learn as I go along (which means there have been quite a few mistakes that I have had to learn the hard way). My hope for this post is that it will keep someone - ANYONE - from ending up where I was! Learn from my mistakes!  There are plenty out there to make - skip this one and find another one that you can make!  That way you can share it and help us skip it.  Maybe, if we all come together, we can get away with sharing one "mistake checklist" rather than everyone completing the entire checklist alone!  Think of the time we could save!  Happy Organizing!  Grab and drink (as heavy as you need it to be!) and dive in!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Getting Organized (Part 2): Surname Notebooks

The reason for my Surname Notebooks is twofold:

FIRST, that it will help me know what I actually have in my possession.  I know some of you may say that there are checklists that I can use, and that Tree Maker programs were made for that purpose, but I am a tactile gal!  I NEED to touch it and see it.  I need to be able to manipulate it and physically write notes out.  For me, digital notes get lost in cyber space, no matter what I try to do because I forget what I have when I can't spread it out!   I use Family Tree Maker 14 and LOVE it, but one screen at a time does not work for me.  I have to be able to flip quickly and spread things out.   Something else to know about me: I have always had trouble recalling information on demand. To help you understand what that means..... Imagine my brain is a bookshelf.  I take meticulous notes when learning something and my brain files EVERYTHING on one of its shelves.  The problem comes when I need to pull that information back out.  I know it is in there, but I can't remember which shelf I put the information on.  Alas, I realized I was beginning to have the same issue with all of my genealogy things.  I needed a system that made it EASY to find ANYTHING I needed because I knew my brain wasn't going to give me any assistance!

The SECOND reason is to keep me focused!  When doing research, one of the biggest issues for me is that I have family from multiple branches that lived practically on TOP of each other (and that does not include just my side of the family).  I keep waiting for the day that I learn my son is his own 5th cousin.  It hasn't happened yet, but if the town of Abbeville (South Carolina) or Oconee County (South Carolina) were populated in the 1800s with ANYONE my family is not related to, it is a blasted MIRACLE, which means I am still on the look out!  Because of this, any research I do tends to make me feel EXTREMELY frazzled, being pulled in multiple directions.  I might start out looking for Craigs in Oconee County, but end up finding Allgoods, Deans, Speeds, Weems, and Wallaces not to mention the Reids and Grishams from my husband's side of the family.  When I research, I am always worried that if I leave "something" behind, I will never be able to find it again, so I stop and document each thing I come across, and 40 minutes later, I haven't got a CLUE what I started out doing.  So............with these goals in mind, I started my new project, and so far, so good (although I will admit that I have only done a few and have a long way to go).  But I have yet to encounter a document that was not easily placed and finding things has never been easier!

Too late to make a long story short (sorry about that!), I searched and searched and read every blog I could find and looked at every picture and idea posted on The Organized Genealogist Facebook Page.   And FINALLY, I pieced together something that would work!!!

OK - Now Let's break it down: 
I have this notebook started off with a Census Checklist.  The Black blocks list their birth year and death year and the gray is there to help me remember that I don't need to be looking in the censuses for those years.  (This one has not been filled out - I lost the one I had begun working on - imagine that!)  This one is typed in Word, but I have begun switching each family's page over to Excel because it seems to be a little easier.  You are welcome to use any of them if you think they will help you.  I don't know that one is better than the other - it just depends on what you prefer.  Below are the links to all three files that I have created.

Pockets are key for me so that if there is something that I know goes behind a specific tab, but I have not had the chance to deal with it, I know it still has a place to rest without getting misplaced.  Each divider is for one generation (beginning with the most recent generation and going back in time).  These are the Avery Pocket Divider and they rock!  I have them in both 5 divider sets as well as 8 divider sets.  Which one I use depends on how far I can go back in each family. 

Behind each tab, I have a FAMILY GROUP SHEET (printed straight from my Family Tree Maker).  It is SUPER EASY and a HUGE life saver!  It lists all of the vital information I need to know at a glance.

Next, I printed all CENSUSES FOR THE FAMILY GROUP that I have found and put them in chronological order behind the group sheet.  I have links in a separate blog entry (Going Digital!) to Word Document files I have made of blank US Census forms as well as a single Excel file I created with every Census in it so that I could transpose what I find, making it is easier to read.  (I know there are blank pages that I can download and fill in, but I prefer things typed - I'm a wee bit too OCD to deal with the mistakes I tend to make while writing things out.)  I would like to eventually have the originals AND the transcriptions back to back so that I have a version of the census that is easy on the eyes while still being able to see that I do have a picture of the original to compare it with.

With the rest of each divided section, I became VERY familiar and with mini post-it tabs!  I made a HOMEMADE TABS for each individual that I have information on.  It lists the full name on top with the family position under it (i.e. father, mother, son, daughter, granddaughter, grandson, etc.) and placed each on the edge of the first page with their individual information.  I do everything in chronological order if I can, but try to have pictures along with any other items specific to each person in this section.  For this 4th Great Grandfather (Andrew Muir Wallace), I have a couple of pictures (they are digital copies so I made a print out of each one), some documents from board meetings for the SC State Hospital that I found online through the SC Archives Search Page (he gave the land where it was built and served as the President of the Board of Regents for a while).  I also have newspaper clippings (see example below).........

........ and I ended with his Will.  Once I have a picture of his headstone (which I actually think I do, but it is still in the unorganized digital files I have yet to go through), the headstone picture will go after the will.

After the father's tab, I put a tab for the mother (both parent tabs are located at the top edge of the page).  I began this mother's section with a print out of my blog post about her.  I wanted to make sure that I had that to look back through or to be able to show anyone in the family that wants to see the notebook.  I figured If I felt strongly enough to write about it, it needed to be put in the notebook.

After the parents, I go to the children and place their tabs on a second tier.  All of Andrew's children's family group sheets stay in Andrew's section EXCEPT my direct ancestor's (because it goes behind a separate pocketed divider).  After Andrew's children, I continue with any sibling's descendants that I know about (which are all grandchildren and great grandchildren of Andrew and Sarah).  Andrew and Sarah had 11 children, so 10 of his children will have their families stay in Andrew's divided section, while my 3rd great grandfather moves into his own divided section.  Below you can see how the post-it tab hierarchy works.

So sorry!  I have apparently written an entire NOVEL instead of a blog post - oops!.  I hope I didn't lose you in the process.  If you have any questions or advice, I would love to hear it!  I know that these notebooks mean I am using a lot of paper, but it has been EXTREMELY helpful in keeping me focused - I don't tend to get side tracked on other names as much!  Taking the time to put the notebook together has also shown to be worth it when I went to be with family for the 4th of July.  Our family land is near Oconee State Park and there is no good internet coverage there, so pulling up the digital files was not a great option, but the notebook was PERFECT!  Everyone was able to look through it together, identifying people for me that I was unsure of (and since there were only printed copies of the photos, I was able to write directly on them without worrying about messing them up).  They were also able to look at their group sheets to fix any mistakes I had quickly.

This is by no means the "end all, be all," but it has worked like a charm for me and so I thought I would share it in hopes that it might give a little peace of mind to someone else out there on another genealogical journey!

Here is a 1-2-3 Checklist (behind each pocket divider):
(a printed copy is made and hole punched into the notebook of any digital copies I have but originals are put in protective sleeves)
1. Family Group Sheet
2. Marriage certificate
3. Censuses for the family (in chronological order)
4. Any documents that have to do with the family as a unit (i.e. city directories when both parents were living or when children were living at the house)
5. family photos that have both parents with other family members
6. Father section (tab at top)
      a. blog entries on the person (if I have any)
      b. photos of father (in chronological order if possible) (photos of him by himself and with 
            any of his children or grandchildren)
      c. documents (including letters written, wills, etc. - end documents with the will)
      d. obituaries, funeral programs, death certificate and headstone photo
7. Mother section (tab at top)
     ***follow the same format as the father
8.  First Child (tab at 2nd level)
     a. his/her family group sheet
     b. blog entries (if applicable)
     c. birth certificate (of him and his wife)
     d. marriage certificate (if applicable)
     e. censuses (in chronological order)
     f. any other documents that have to do with the family (including wife documents)
     g. family photos or photos of him with his family
               8a. First Child's children (in chronological order following the same order as parent)
                            *****tab at level 3 for these children******
9.  Second Child (tab at 2nd level)

Let me know if you see any mistakes or if something is confusing.  I am assuming that this
1-2-3 checklist will continue to be a work in progress. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Getting Organized (Part 1): Enduring the "Conditioning" Before the "Game"

This is the first in a series of posts I have decided to do on getting genealogy records and trees organized.  (Since this is where I am in my personal journey, it seemed the most logical way to continue my blog while taking a research hiatus.)  There are many different ways to be organized, but if you are searching for ideas and ways to "get it all together," feel free to follow along!  Before I really dive in, though, let's start by answering "WHY?" (This is for my benefit as much as yours - I know I will need to remind myself along the way!)

At the beginning of this summer, I pulled out my genealogy "stuff" and got ready to spend some big blocks of time working on researching my tree.  I love researching my family's history, and try very hard to keep what I find organized, so that when I am able to work on it during school holidays (I teach), I can easily pick up where I left off.  

When I sat down, I realized VERY QUICKLY that my previous organizational efforts had not been as successful as I had thought.  My digital genealogical files had a lot to be desired (despite my best efforts!) and my paper files, although somewhat organized, were difficult to search.  I had:

            1.  tons of duplicate photos and .pdf files that had accidentally made their way into my 
                 Family Tree Program
            2.  duplicate (and sometimes triplicate) digital files in other folders on my computer 
                 (in addition to the multiples in my Family Tree Maker file)
            3.  paper records from previous visits to genealogical society archives that had not 
                 been digitized or sorted by family
            4.  TONS of documents, pictures, and letters, as well as couple of family bibles that 
                 had been given to me (since I have taken on the role of the family genealogist) 
                 that I have begun scanning (which means I have "paper" and digital copies of 
                 those items), but have not completed
            5.  Family notebooks with some information, photos and documents inside, but with 
                 no real organizational system within each notebook 

Confused yet?????? Join the club!  

Before I did anything else, I knew I had to get this under control!  So...... I jumped in the deep end, and decided to take on the task of getting my ducks in a row this summer instead of searching for new information.  Ummmmmm, Let's just say that I knew it was an undertaking, but I completely underestimated just how much I had bitten off.  Now, a month and a half later, I am just beginning to chew my second bite! (and I have a bottomless plate I am trying to eat!)

One day, while I was working on this project, my son heard me groaning.  He asked what was wrong, and I explained that I was just frustrated with how long it was taking to do this extremely monotonous task.  He then asked why I kept doing genealogy if I wasn't having fun.  Trying to help my 13-year-old son understand, I used his world to help me illustrate:

Mom: "Do you like to play soccer?"
Lake: "Yes."
Mom: "Do you like the conditioning that you have to do to prepare for the soccer games?"
Lake: "No."
Mom: "Would you be as good a soccer player if you didn't do any conditioning before the 
Lake: "No."
Mom:  "Is the conditioning worth it even though it isn't always fun?"
Lake: "Yes." 
Mom: "What I am doing is my genealogy conditioning.  It may not be as fun as the 'game,' 
             but it has to be done to make me better at what I do."

I don't know where you are in your genealogical journey.  You may be just starting out with this fun little "hobby," or you may have moved on into the "obsession" stage (if so, welcome to the neighborhood!).  Regardless of where you are, always remember - conditioning is key!  I may groan at times (because, if we are being honest, who really likes conditioning?), but never forget that it is necessary!  As the family historians, we have taken on the responsibility of preserving our family's past, and to do it properly, we have to endure every aspect of the journey.  So, enjoy the games - but don't forget what is needed to make each game the best it can be!