13 May 2011

Are All Genealogists Perfectionists... Or Is It Just Me?

Why is that every time I make some headway on my data entry, I find some new and improved way to do it? In my efforts to do my family tree "right," I've restarted my family tree file three times!

My first effort, I will admit, was plagued with errors. I was using Family Tree Maker 2008, then 2009, and I was just throwing information on my tree at an almost feverish pace. At the same time, I was reading books about how to do genealogy and realized that I wasn't carefully sourcing everything I was putting on my tree. It was right about this time that I went to my first Family History Expo and realized there are a bunch of genealogy software programs to choose from! I switched over to Legacy and have not regretted that decision since.

Having said that, I didn't know how to use my software to its full potential. Even though I read the manual, I didn't really know what I was doing. I must admit that I love entering information in all the little fields; there is something so satisfying to me to fill in a blank. However,  I can definitely get carried away. I had information all over the place with no citations and I knew that wasn't right. So I threw the whole file out and decided to start over.

This time I went through and started slowly adding everyone in with citations, etc. I was on a different paper filing system then and it was frustrating me how quickly I was going through index tabs (numbering system). I was so (overly, I think) meticulous in the beginning, but then slowly that changed. I have a hard time with difficult records to source. I have multiple obituaries that I scanned from my mother-in-law that have no dates or newspaper information on them. I don't know how those would be sourced. Do I go to the library and try to find it? Or do I put the information in as is and cite it as being her collection? These little questions would irritate me, so I put it off (procrastination is a symptom of perfectionism).

I started reading DearMYRTLE's organization series this year and I decided I like her filing system better than mine. So I went through and changed my hard copy filing system as well as my digital filing system to match. This caused disconnections to every record that I digitally attached to my family tree. For some reason, the thought of going back through and correcting all the errors made me want to put aside my genealogy fun for about a week. I couldn't move forward and cringed at moving back.

This brings me to the other night. I watched Geoff Rasmussen's (pretty amazing and very informative) webinar on archive called "Watch Geoff Live: Adding a Death Certificate" and loved his method of adding a record into his family tree. I got a glimpse of how neat and organized his sources looked and wanted mine to be that pretty too! He wouldn't even click on the "save" button for an event in his family tree without first adding the source! I am guilty of doing this more times than I want to admit. I figure I will add the source later. Most of the time I do, but sometimes I don't and I look at a piece of information and wonder where it came from.

So I played with the idea (AGAIN!) of starting a whole new one, but this time only adding in information based on records that I had in my hand. If I didn't have a piece of evidence, I didn't put it in my tree and the source must be added at that moment! Then I would get to make my master sources all neat and easier to navigate through. I would also get to see where I got too far ahead of myself (guilty) and make sure I had evidence that I needed to take me to the next generation. I tried to talk myself out of it. I thought I would just go back through my current tree and fix all the disconnected images and clean it up, but me being me... I found a way to do what I subconsciously wanted to do anyway.

I told myself I would just enter a couple of people with this new approach to see how it felt. So I tried. I entered vital records for myself and my immediate family... felt good. So I kept going. Next thing I know, I'm all excited because I have this new pretty tree and I'm cruising along. I'm already seeing records that I need to obtain to prove parentage, etc and thinking of other corresponding projects (migration maps on Google Earth) that I can do as I go along. I'm all atwitter with my new tree!!

So does this mean I am doomed to keep starting or restarting how I record my research?? In true perfectionist form, will the euphoria wear off and I will be faced again with an imperfect (to me) tree and start itching to create a new one? Or am I just finding my way as a beginning genealogist until I find the system that works best for me? I'm praying that it is the latter... and that my non-genealogist husband doesn't find out how many times I've redone my tree since he doesn't really understand why I want to do all this "work" anyway.

Okay, end of rant. Feel better already. :)

© copyright Monica Palmer, 2011

1 comment:

  1. I totally understand! I've restarted my tree once so far in the past year, but sometimes I debate starting again, wondering if it'd be faster to do that than to add in all the missing citations (mostly FamilySearch).