Monday, January 26, 2015

Workflow to make me go slow....


I've found a document. Now what do I do?

This week over at the Genealogy Do-Over we are working on Project Management and Tracking Research. I've started using a variation of Thomas MacEntee's Project Management Spreadsheet and I'm overwhelmed by the tasks I've assigned myself. I am retired and I don't have to do any of this stuff, but I've signed myself up for a pretty heavy schedule of family, sewing and genealogy tasks. Long term, this new Project Management Log should keep me from overextending myself and let me get back to my 8 hours of sleep per night. Short term, tracking all this stuff has lowered my blood pressure and eliminated the panic I was feeling about forgetting something.

That said, one of the pieces of getting everything entered into the spreadsheet was to actually create a project outline of all the steps needed to accomplish my many projects. This has always been a weak point in my getting things done. For example, I wanted to take our personal family papers out of the safety deposit box last week in order to scan them and enter them into my Research log. (I need to prove I was born, you see.) So on my way out the door, late as usual for my workout, I realized I would need the key to the box, the box number, and something to carry the papers in. Mad scramble, Later yet. Oh, well, I hate working out.

Now, my sister can just do all this in her head, but my head is too full of other stuff to remember details well. At least that's my excuse for covering my cognitive impairment and my inability to live anywhere but "in the moment". Using my new project log, I created a task for the day before returning the items to the bank which allowed me to have everything in my gym bag so I could just leave in the morning, do my workout and run my errand.  AND bonus, I got to complete a task. Oh, and I worked out for the full hour.

That's life, but this is genealogy.  I've been encouraged to consider workflow by some folks on the Do-Over group.  Good idea. Harder than I thought it should be, even though I had kinda worked through it once earlier this month.  I decided there were 2 steps. (How hard could that be?)
  1. How do I find a document to prove a genealogical point?
  2. What do I do with the document AFTER I've found it?
Let's work on number 2. Here's what I think. First, everything has to be digitized. Fits with all my genealogy project goals: digitize photo collections, rename documents/photos for easy finding, label paper files and photos so I know they've been digitized, digitize old media formats, and of course share, digitally, the information with interested family.  So here's my digital workflow with some new tweaks gleaned from discussions in the Do-Over Group:

I’ve found a document. What do I do?

  • If not already in digital format, scan, then file original in archival sleeve and put sleeve in ToDo Basket (I'd better clean out that basket of all the other junk that's in it.) These documents would be ones inherited or given to me by family members, like my mother-in-law's birth certificate, or my parents' marriage certificate. These will be filed after the analysis process.
  • all saved documents go into  DROPBOX/Genealogy-Shared/{!xxGenealogy} /[!ToBeFiled]  (I will not file in surname folders until document has been analyzed) The xx stands for the surname part of the folder name.)
  • Save the document using Naming Convention: 
Last_First_{Married}_YYYY_State(2 letters)_County_City_Item{_index} 
OR for Photos: Last_First_{Married}_YYYY_St_County_City_Event_Photo
{-index} is added as neccessary and without the {}, to the end of a file name when it is not a derivative of the original, but an index or abstract of the file.  This means I need to try to find an image of the original document. 
  • Create shortcuts as needed for other names in documents; rename as needed; add metadata as needed
This is my Dropbox Genealogy folder. My sister and I share access to this folder and EVERYTHING genealogy is in this set of folders. The top 3 folders hold all our documents related to our families. 

When ready to Analyze Documents:                                                                    

folders inside surname folders
Reports are Family Group
Sheets and the like; Logs
are my Research Logs; WI is
location folder for
  • Move file from !ToBeFiled  into appropriate digital folder                           
  • Add File Name to index spreadsheet
  • Create label for archival sleeve (including digital folder/file name);  file sleeve in appropriate binder location
  • Add document to Evidentia and/or Research Log (Still working out which of these will work best for me for analysis purposes.)
  • Create source citation in Research Log and/or Evidentia
  • Analyze document or collection of documents, write conclusion
  • Add conclusion & document(s) to Legacy – events, transcriptions, attach document(s) to source, share to other persons in Legacy as appropriate
  • Edit entry in research log to indicate completion
Piece of cake! Or not....

The new part for me is the tweak of putting all my files into an index spreadsheet.  I've used one previously to match the locations of physical paper files and digital ones so I can make sure something is scanned.  I do this because I've been known to scan stuff twice or more because I didn't know I had already scanned that photo or document.  Sheesh. What a waste of time!

Right now, I've decided to try creating an index of digital files using a spreadsheet.  So far, I've only got columns for File Name, Folder 1 (Hanson, Dosch or DoschDaveLynn) and Folder2 (Bednorz, Hanson, Hintz, Sullivan, etc).  I'm not going to add other stuff until I try out the searches and sorts I can do with these. I imagine I'll eventually add something to search for photos vs documents, types of documents, etc.  I'm counting on the Do-Over community to help me figure this out.  

Now, in terms of actually doing genealogy, I have been gathering and re-naming digital files for my interview project with my 90-year-old mother-in-law.  She's the last parent left and she's a great story-teller and keeper of the family lore.  Her mind is sharp as a tack; she remembers everything, but she's failing physically - vision and hearing are going and arthritis makes life difficult for her.  She has to be my number 1 genealogy priority this year. And she will be the topic for my foray into writing. I've joined the Family History Writing Challenge from Feb 1-28. (Talk about over-extending oneself...) I see her this weekend and have both my Flip Video camera and my new Olympus digital voice recorder. A big project, many steps. Thank goodness I'm all organized with my Research Log and Project Manager.  Well....we'll see.  I'm famous for falling off the back of the wagon.  I'm counting on my Do-Over  and Writing Challenge communities to keep me on track.  

Edited with many thanks to Rod Deller of the Genealogy Do-Over group for pointing out confusions caused by my writing assumptions.  Thanks, Rod.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Getting ready to research: Genealogy Do-Over Weeks 1-3

Who knew it could take so long to figure out how to get ready to do genealogy research?

Over at the Genealogy Do-Over Facebook group 2500 people are discussing just this question. (Membership required) Fearless leader -he’d have to be fearless, or at least a bit crazy to take on this group - Thomas MacEntee is intentionally slowing us down so that we carefully consider how best to develop a research system that works for us. Seems that if you get too far into this genealogy thing, you just end up drowning in a pile of data if you don't become systematic about your research. It turns out there is no one way to do genealogical research. In fact, there are at least 2500 ways. But with help from this community of enthusiastic learners, we are each improving our research methods.

The goals of this Do-Over:

  •              to be able prove what we know to genealogy proof standards
  •              to be able to find our proof documents
  •        to spend more time researching and less time searching for documents and notes, or repeating past searches
  •       to leave our records in a format that non-genealogists can understand and hopefully continue our work

Progress has been made and this week, we’re allowed to start researching – not analyzing yet, or entering data into genealogy programs – but finding documents to answer questions asked by our genealogy research goals.

I think I’m ready to begin. With the help, tips and questions of countless Do-Over community members, I’ve developed an Excel Research Workbook that includes quite a few worksheets. It’s not perfect and there are a few questions that can only be answered as I start down the research path.

My criteria for setting up my log included:

  • all in one place (I can never remember where I put things and I hate opening a bunch of documents to complete my work.)
  • digital completion of forms 
  • easy to complete with checkboxes and consistent layout of forms needing short answers
  •  inclusive of research aids to help with the process and remind of process

My base workbook is the Research Log shared by ThomasMacEntee on Google docs and in the Facebook Genealogy Do- Over group. I plan to use all of his worksheets which include:
  •        To Do List which Thomas uses to track his goals,
  •        Search Attempts, for tracking where I’m looking for documents and
  •        Research Log, where I’ll log what I find and how I’ll find it again.
  •        Citation Formats and Evidence Evaluation research aids to help complete the log.
To these I’ve added my own and adaptations of other worksheets:
  •        Side To-Do List” where I will track important but non research-related tasks
  •        Onsite Research worksheet for tracking repository information – addresses, hours, etc
  •        Naming Conventions worksheet so I can remember how I name my files and where I file them
  •        Family Group Sheet adapted from Word to Excel from Thomas MacEntee’s Geneabloggers website. Thomas has re-worked a standard format to make it gender neutral. (Thanks Thomas, that was much needed and much ignored)
  •       Research Goals worksheet, credit to JennyLanctot for this form. This form provides more space for noting what I know and don’t know and where I might find more information about a research person. I will know soon if it is duplicating the To-Do List and Family Group Sheet
  •       And finally, an Individual Research Log and Checklist adapted from James Christopherson’s very detailed but easy to use checklist of sources for genealogy use as shared with the Facebook Do-Over group.

I’ve made masters of the Research Log, Goals worksheet, Family Group Sheet, and the Individual Checklist. I’ve created a copy of each for my “Lynn” research which has grown my Research Log to 17 pages, a bit large, perhaps, but everything is in one workbook. I’ve color-coded the tabs so that I can easily group and find what I’m working on.

There are still some questions. Large among these is what to do with worksheets when I’m no longer working on them. There will have to be a solution for storing completed forms as these will likely be needed for future projects.

Still to be learned is what to do with the research when we’ve found and documented it. Analysis, conclusions of proof, and entry to a database program are all next steps as yet under wraps. And finally there needs to be some sort of presentation of the information (at least in my mind). Books, scrapbooks, stories, websites blogs are all among the ways to share my research with friends, family and the genealogy community. (sigh) So much to be learned.

However, with these tools in-hand, I’ve now added myself as the first Family Group Sheet.  Not sure why I never thought about starting with me before. I’ve added goals to my Research Goals and tasks for these to my To-Do list. Tomorrow I get to start looking for ways to prove I was born.  You’d think my word would be good enough, but then, 100 years from now, no one will believe that I knew what I was talking about. How much easier will it be for future genealogists if I provide them the proof documents they need to confirm that indeed, I know whereof I speak?

It's time I prove my existence!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Here we are already in week 2 of this Do-Over process.  Much has been accomplished, and my soul-searching for organizational solutions has paid off….  I think…. We’ll see…. It’s not pretty yet, but I’m feeling more in control. If you are interested in the progress made this week, it's at the end of this post.

What have I learned?  Why is it important to be doing this?
  1. Since my primary motivation is to leave some sort of "product" for my children and my cousins and their families, I want the information to be accurate and I want to have easy-to-find documentation to support that information.  I want to share stories that "put flesh on the bones" of our ancestors.  I also want to document my own life so that my children will know me in the "first person". There are best ways to do all of these things.
  2. An organization and file-naming system that someone else can make sense of is critical if I want to have any hope that my work will be kept into the next generation. 
  3. I really love thinking about, talking about, and solving problems related to my family's genealogy. The Facebook Genealogy Do-Over group is inspiring, raises my level of enthusiasm, and provides a community for doing all of the above. A community of like-minded people makes the journey even more fun.
  4. Backup! Backup! Backup!
  5. Entering data ONCE, CORRECTLY is preferable to doing things over and over again, losing files, finding the same resource over and over, and otherwise being inefficient in my research.
  6. Using some of the new tools, like Evidentia,  will help improve the quality of my analysis and help provide good leads to further research.
Now for the progress report:

  • ·         I talked my sister Nancy into joining the group and working on the Do-Over with me.  Since we share the genealogy folder on Dropbox, and I was messing with our files and our old filing system, I was glad to get her to join me on this quest.  With two heads together, we’ve made some decisions about filing and naming conventions.  Nancy will start a new tree on Legacy and I’ll work on our joint tree.  We’ve each picked someone to research when the time comes and we’ve each gathered what we know right now and any documents we might have that would be important.
  • ·         I’ve consolidated all the genealogy files into Dropbox’s
    holding file for the time being.
      I had thought I was being careful to use only Dropbox for our storage, but I found files in several unexpected places. Winnowing out the duplicates has started and will have to continue as we go through this process.
  • ·        
    I’ve improved my use of Evernote, thanks to ThomasMacEntee’s Hack Genealogy course on Evernote Basics.  That prompted a cleanout, tagging and file renaming of Evernote.  I’ve decided to use Evernote for resources, but not for genealogy records because I want to keep all these in one location and Dropbox is that location for multiple reasons.
  • ·         My AHA! for this week came as a result of purchasing Thomas MacEntee’s Hack Genealogy course called “Get Your GenealogyGroove Back”.  Besides showing how he uses his Genealogy Research Log Excel spreadsheet, he shared his Project Management Excel spreadsheet. I’ve put that into practice now and I’m losing that panicked feeling I had because I’m doing genealogy instead of my other projects. At least now I know what I'm NOT getting done.....
  • ·         I’m working on the week 2 assignments which make me chuckle each time I work on them.  Mr. MacEntee exhorts us to “start with yourself”.  I suppose it’s about time.  I’ve spent many years chasing ancestors and bemoaning the fact that there aren’t stories, diaries, letters or other documents to “put flesh on their bones”.  But I’ve never written down my own memoir.  As I’ve started, the words just come pouring out and I’ve been surprised that, in the context of capturing the places and events of my youth, addresses, names and details jump onto the page.  If someone had asked me about these, I never could have pulled them from my head. 
  • ·         Besides writing, I’m starting family group sheets for myself and my parents.  I can’t go back any farther since I don’t know dates by heart for any others.  These sheets will provide the fodder for setting my RESEARCH GOALS.
  • ·         We’ve been discussing interviews and have been tasked to interview family members.  We have only one parent left (my husband’s mother) and I have a Sullivan uncle and aunt.  Other than that the generation before us is gone.  So I need to make plans to interview these three.  But in the meantime, I’ve left a post on our cousins Facebook page suggesting some form of shared memories activity. Perhaps an old photo, perhaps an interview prompt.   We’ll see what response I get.    

Back to work!      


Friday, January 2, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over Day 1

OK, this is harder than I thought it would be.  Seems the more I know, the less I know.

We have 3 parts to this week’s work: 
  • Set aside previous research, 
  • Plan for researching, and 
  • Establish baseline practices. 
I’m finding I have to elucidate my baseline practices before I can create my Plan for Researching. (I've already set aside my previous research.) I’m not sure I've ever thought this through before, but I've been able to break this down into two parts which I've outlined at the end of this article: 
  • A) how I find a document and
  • B) what I do with it after I've found it. 

What I’ve uncovered is a whole lot of questions I need to answer, some of which will need lots of tweaking along the way.  Some of these are down-right embarrassing to have to be asking, since I’ve been doing this for more than 15 years.  In the interest of full-disclosure, here’s the list:
  • What does a good research plan look like? I can plan from high level goals to detail tasks, but I’ve never done that for genealogy before. I think Serendipity must be my genealogy middle name.
  • Where will I keep things like my research plan and lists of genealogy sites?  I think I’d like to try to use Evernote and I know I like to have stuff digitally accessible.  But I find when I’m working that I often want paper notes to refer to and I frequently find myself annotating them in pen.  Where’s my happy medium?
  •  I’m sure I need a research journal, but, never having used one before (I know, I know), I don’t know what one should look like for me. Actually, I’ve tried to use research journals, both paper and digital, but find I can’t stick to them (even if I can find them) for subsequent research.  I must be doing something wrong here, but I haven’t found a solution for me yet.  But this time I’m sure I MUST find a way to consistently use a research journal or I will end up, as I frequently do now, finding the same research over and over again.
  •  How can I design my ToDo list so I can be efficient at following up on clues?
  • How committed do I want to be to Evernote for managing my research finds?  Will it save me the steps of downloading and naming a digital file?  Can I learn to set up tags to be useful search agents?  Just how powerful an aid is Evernote?
  • Do I know how to analyze a document to squeeze out all the information and inferences for follow up that it contains?  I think I do a pretty good job right now, but is there more I can do?  Will Evidentia prove useful in this process?

At least this list of questions will guide me the rest of this week as I go back to determine how I will plan for research.  At first, I was nervous that analyzing a document was not very prominent.  But, that's one of my genealogical strengths; I'm pretty good at figuring out what a document tells (and doesn't tell) me about the people in it. I feel pretty confident about this part of my genealogy tool kit.

Watch for Part 2 of this soul-seeking (OK, it’s only genealogy process-seeking, but it’s not as romantic as soul-seeking) endeavor. 

If you’re still reading, below is my current outline of my baseline processes:

A. Finding a Document
a.       Start with a research plan (do I need a form?) with SMART goals
b.      Figure out the people parameters – known places, dates, names of ancestors (lists, Evernote, Legacy, Research Journal, etc)
c.       Figure out where to look for sources: genealogy search sites, FB groups, cousins, courthouses, LDS, etc , (lists, Evernote, Research Journal)
d.      Start with one name or location on my research plan and follow that online or locally, keeping a to do list where I can put serendipitous finds outside this search but interesting for future follow up. Consider planning name or location searches if doing onsite research.
e.      Add all searches/finds/dead ends/negative info to my research journal (what does that look like?)
B. I've found a Document
a.       Internet document. (eg census)
1.       Try to find the original document if looking at an indexed doc
2.       If can’t find original,
a.       save, using naming convention, with extension “index” indicated;
b.      add metadata to include citation info;
c.       create shortcuts to other people as needed
d.      file according to folder structure;
e.      note location of original in research journal and list of docs to find
3.       If can find original,
a.       save, using naming convention,
b.      add metadata to include citation info
c.       create shortcuts to other people as needed
d.      file according to folder structure;
4.       ?Add document to Evernote?
5.       Analyze document (evidentia?)
6.       Create source citation, adding transcribed info to details tab
7.       Add document to Legacy –
a.       share with appropriate others,
b.      add events to cover info gleaned,
c.       add source to events as appropriate
8.       Add entry to research journal (what does that look like?)
b.      original document (eg birth certificate)
1.       Scan and
a.       name according to naming convention;
b.      add metadata to include physical location of document, owner, etc;
c.       add file to appropriate digital folder;
d.      create shortcuts as needed to others named in the document
2.       Put original into archival sleeve
a.       Create label on outside including digital name and digital location;
b.      file in appropriate location (3-ring binder)
3.       Continue as for Internet document
c.       Original document in document repository
1.       Scan (FlipPal) or photograph (camera or phone)  
a.       Record citation information (Journal or Evernote?)
b.      Download once home
c.       Follow processing steps for Internet research starting at step 3
2.       Order original if important enough to add to paper collection

Thursday, January 1, 2015

I said I had a plan - well, I've had some help.  Thomas MacEntee has challenged the genealogy community to a Do Over.  The Do Over is a chance to slow down, back up and see with new eyes. Thomas has set up a Facebook group and a variety of social media to help us. Over 13 weeks, the community will re-visit good genealogy research strategies and apply them to our work.  With over 1000 members, this Do Over community has as many variations of doing over as there are members.

Thomas has provided a variety of social media connections for us, so there's something for everyone. Check out the Genealogy Do Over Facebook page where you'll find these links: 

If you are planning to be a part of the Genealogy Do-Over or you just want to watch and track participant progress and learn new research tricks - this is the place for you to ask questions and also share advice about the Genealogy Do-Over:
- List of topics:…/ or click the Files tab at the top of the page for a PDF you can print
- Email list: we'll be sending out the current week's topics along with tips and tricks each Friday. Visit to sign up.
- Pinterest board: blog posts from participants and neat tools and resources will be pinned on the Genealogy Do-Over board at

What does this all mean for Remembering Patricia Sullivan Hanson? Hopefully, some kind of written history by the end of this year. To do that means:
  • looking anew at the data I already have on our family, 
  • collecting more data and family stories,
  • continuing to work on our family photos, 
  • researching the locations and history of those locations
  • identifying/confirming relationships, 
  • putting everything into a genealogy database,
  • writing up what I find in a format that includes stories and photos
I'm putting this out here as part of my goals which include resurrecting this blog and writing family history.  Stay tuned. 

Starting Anew in 2015

Wow! More than a year since my last post - that's about to change.  Watch for my next post!

In my defense, it's been a momentous year.  My daughter and son-in-law moved in with us just before Christmas 2013.  They lived with us for 6 months while they sold one house, bought another, finished a PhD, and changed jobs.  All while also preparing to become parents.  My son and his wife also moved, twice, in January and again in August.  Also while preparing to become parents.  My other daughter got engaged.  Oh, and I had hip replacement surgery in May.  All these events caused us to paint lots of walls, move lots of boxes, make lots of baby things, and enjoy having two of our three children living in the same city as us.

October 2014 brought the birth of our first grandchildren, Evie and Tristen, 8 days apart. Needless to say, we have spent the last couple of months doting on these new family additions. My mother would have approved.
Sulli Cuzzins Reunion July 2014

Sulli Cousins: Bonnie Edwards, Nancy Walters, JoAnn Wedge,
Paula and Bob Swain in Tampa Florida
Genealogy sort of took a back seat to all these events, but there were two wonderful activities that really made this year special.  We had a Sullivan Family Reunion in Madison, Wisconsin in July and my sister and I visited some Sullivan cousins in Florida who were unable to get to the reunion.  Bonus: These cousins had my Aunt Winona's genealogy research and we were able to scan all their documents. Lots of work to be done analyzing and adding this research to our family records - a task for 2015 for sure.

And now it is 2015 and things are calmer. Genealogy is again at the top of my list.  I think my Mom would have enjoyed this last year as it was filled with family and friends.  Now it's time to document all the good things that happened and to explore more of our family.  I have a plan....