Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Thoughts on Being a 2nd Generation Genealogist

I am liking GeneaBlogger's blogging prompt called Wisdom Wednesdays, because it gives me another chance to take stock. This week I've been thinking a lot about how genealogy for me is largely defined by the fact that Mom gave me a ton of information and her GEDCOM Big Tree containing now over 70,000 individuals. So let me kick back a bit and chew on some thoughts and see what's what. Here, in no particular order are my thoughts about being a 2nd generation genealogist... or 2GG. I think that's a thing:)

Help, I'm drowning under this pile of stuff!

Yeah, looking back, that was me! One can be overwhelmed at any point doing this work but when you're handed a gigantic tree and a ton of records it can weigh you down. Mom and I would talk and it seemed that as quick as I would commit a dozen or so people to memory, five of those would fall out of my left ear. A couple of years later, now I know which uncle she's talking about when she mentions Tuck or Tad and know who he's the son of and what his given name was. That said, here's what's been most helpful to me, just in case there is some other 2GGer out there who wants to compare notes. Hey, 2GGers, let's be in touch!

* Print out a chart and ancestor report and put both in a binder.  Luckily Mom had a GEDCOM going in Family Tree Maker so I wasn't starting with a box of paper scraps. Trouble was, how to look at that GEDCOM in a way I could learn from? After trying a couple of dead ends that mostly involved me sitting attentively in from of my computer screen, which lasted the better part of a year, I figured out enough about FTM to run an ancestor report and a chart. I realized that with those two reports in a binder that I could thumb through and make notes I could see relationships, and that was a big step forward. That binder was and continues to be my gold mine. Actually, I've had three updates of that binder because I write notes all over the pages when I think of something I want to check out, so the pages get pretty marked up over time.

* Working with the data and taking every opportunity to do so is the way to remember it.  Sounds logical, right? At the very first, I thought I was going to memorize everyone on the tree, and I sure was wrong about that! Silly, really. It's all about using the information!!
I love blogging about the ancestors because every time I revisit the compiled data and work with it I come to an even deeper understanding of something or someone. So blogging works for me, and using Geneablogger's blogging prompts are very important because they keep me moving through the week, especially Surname Saturday... that's a winner.
Now I can see that because I was not the person who researched all the names and dates, I have no reinforcement for remembering such. Mom on the other hand, at 94 years young, can pretty much remember all of the ancestors and their years. Amazing!

* Error: I think I'll only keep digital records.  When I first started working with Mom's records, I thought, my gosh, what a pile of papers... I'll just keep digital records. That's a cool concept and one that I do try to live by as much as possible. But what's with me and the deep-seeded desire to print out everything and put it in a binder?! Don't think I'm a silly girl who doesn't know how to go digital. I just like to be able to make notes all over stuff on paper.
Now that I'm aware of OneNote and EverNote, maybe I'll change my ways. But for a beginner, I'd have to recommend going with whatever feels right at the start, be it digital or paper, or preferably both.

* Back it up. Just because you were handed  a GEDCOM or pile of stuff doesn't mean that you are exempt from backing up everything and often. Mom and I are running dual operations but we both are fanatical about backing up all of it all the time. I was so relieved when my computer crashed knowing my backed up stuff was at the end of a keystroke and that I didn't have to go crying to Mom for a copy. Now how would that look?

* Don't try to swallow it all at once.  I wish I could have gotten over the desire to swallow it all, that I had at the beginning. I wish I had come sooner to relish the journey and not seek a destination so much, not try to hammer down every brick wall all at once.
There's no destination here. It's a wonderful continuing process and every day it brings new friends, new things to learn, and eventually new ancestors. What's not to like?!

Photo of the day from the Archive, courtesy of Aunt Betty:

My grandfather, Cambria Williams (1897 - 1960), 
standing in snow in Frostburg Maryland, beside his delivery truck
with Hill Street School in the background.
Just found out that "Cambria" is the Latin name for Wales.
His father was born in Wales.

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