Starting again with Genealogy Do-Over


I can already hear you! What? Starting again? You’ve got to be kidding. Actually no. I’ve been researching my family history on and off for the past 30 years and have accumulated files and files of information, so much that I don’t always remember what I’ve got. I started out researching my husband Bob’s family, the MacKay/McKay’s, as he had no Australian roots so to speak. His father had come out from Scotland with one brother, but left behind 10 brothers and sisters.

But, I didn’t stop there. Before I knew it I was researching my side of the family and have never looked back. There were times when I stopped, or slowed down as life got in the way, but it’s always been there to go back to.

This was back in the days of when you had to write a letter, pay good money to get copies of wills, birth, death and marriage certificates (not that they have come down in price). Computers and the internet were just coming into the fore, scanning was only for photos and even then, it wasn’t common. Mostly we would take the original into the photo shop and they would take a photo of the photo and you ended up with negatives. I have a cupboard full of those negatives. Fortunately back then, I did make a sort of an index with them, otherwise I’d have no idea who they were now.

Now we have the internet and I can see how new researchers today have missed out on having patience and waiting weeks, sometimes months for the information to arrive. During that waiting time, you would work out what else there might be out there on your ancestor, or research into another family. Then when the mail arrived, you put down what family you were working on and start back with the information you had just received.

So much is online nowadays and when Ancestry puts on those free access days, it’s very easy to just go for it, rush in holas bolas and download what you can as you’ve only got 48 hours. Doesn’t matter, the name sounds like mine, I’ll grab it anyway, hurry, hurry. Oh and what about those shaky leaves? They have my surname, must be related. Grab, grab, grab. No way Jose! That’s not me. I loath name collectors. Just adding a name to a tree because it looked like it could be mine. When I’ve added information to the internet, I’ve seen where people have come in and swooped on the information without even stopping to consider if they were related. When I’ve taught beginner’s classes for the Geraldton Family History Society, I always stipulate, 99% proof is not good enough, 100% or not at all. I think it fell on a few deaf ears though!

I’ve used several genealogy software database over the years, and they have improved so much since those early days. I now use Legacy Family Tree, but I’ve still not used it to it’s fullest. Yes, it’s great to print out the birth, death and marriage dates, get a family tree out so my cousins can see where they fit into the big scheme of things, but I’ve not really “used” it properly. Hence a good reason why I want to do the Genealogy Do-Over. Start again, from scratch. Pull out those files, enter one person at a time, gather all their information and enter it into the database. Not just their birth, death and marriage records, but to really get in there and write up their stories. After all, family history is also about history, where did my father fit into the Northampton community. Oh of course I know that, but have I written up about him. No! What about my mother? She was a great patchworker wasn’t she? Where did she go to school? Have I really researched thoroughly into their lives? Oh and what about me? Who wants to know about me!? Golly, I hope someday one of my grandchildren, or great grandchildren will. So I’d better leave a trail and probably digital, more than paper these days, but there will surely be nothing better than handling a letter or document with “my” handwriting, or “my” signature! Once again, the Genealogy Do-Over will have me doing that, analysing everything, sourcing my information, so those after me will know where it came from. Make better use of To-Do lists to help me stay focused. That’s one of the problems with researching so many families, it’s easy to skip over to another family while those shaky leaves are waving at me in the breeze.

I want to scan all my original documents and save them to my computer hard drive, backing it up to an external hard drive. I use Google Drive, so I have access to those files in the cloud and on my computer, iPad or even the iPhone, at any time I may need them. No, I will not be throwing anything away. At one stage I did have that thought go through my mind, but couldn’t bring myself to do it, and certainly not original documents. Never! But I won’t be printing anything out that I download from the internet. It can remain a digital file and I will name it and file it in a way that we will be able to find it quickly in time.

I have been following Thomas MacEntee‘s Geneabloggers website and Facebook page for some time. Then just before Christmas, up pops a bright red button in my newsfeed. Genealogy Do-Over Are you ready to hit the start button again? I was immediately drawn in. A Genealogy Do-Over is just want I need. Go back to the beginning and start entering my information into my database. Yes, “MY” information, All About Me! Have you done that? Do you know everything that is on your birth certificate? Really? Have you really studied it?

So my goal and process will be:

  • Breathe!
  • Start with myself
  • Find all the relevant documents that has my name on it
    • birth and marriage certificate, passport, driver’s license, school report, work references, certificates I have been awarded, newspapers reports that I have been mentioned in e.g., birth announcement, wedding write up and anything else I can lay my hands on
  • Set out a research guideline in Evernote which will also be used to clip information that is relevant to my research so I can find it easily later
  • Track what I’ve done. I’m a list person, so I need to make lists and tick them off when they’re done. For this I will use Google Sheets, an online spreadsheet. Once again I will have access to this on all my devices
  • Enter information into my database using Legacy Family Tree and use it to it’s fullest so that when I share my information with family they will be able to read the stories and see where that information came from
  • As I find and download documents, save them to a good filing system and name them appropriately, keeping a consistent naming method on my computer so they are easily searchable

To learn how others are going about this Do-Over, I’ve joined the Genealogy Do-Over Facebook book group. There is so much great information being passed around there and this is where the weekly challenges will be easily accessed although I have also signed up for the newsletters from the website.

So, here goes. I’m in!


About Jenny MacKay

Just a person who is looking forward to retirement and enjoying the golden years!
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One Response to Starting again with Genealogy Do-Over

  1. John says:

    Having started out with my family tree in the last five years or so, I was extremely cautious about trusting anything others told me, or what others had on their own family trees online (many people do sloppy research, as you noted).

    Primary documents are the main source of my research whenever possible, and any other information is recorded, but its source is recorded as well, so if I get conflicting or corroborating information later, I can compare the sources.

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