Dare I do it?

Tonight I had a glitch with GeniAus’s Hangout on Air for which the topic was an enquiry from Sharon from Gathering Dust blog re how we each handle our filing/”piling” system.

Perhaps the gods were laughing,as after the first minutes I was inaudible to anyone and my screen dump didn’t work. In the end I left to hangout with living family members who dropped by unexpectedly.

family-history-back-to-basicsHowever I think Sharon’s enquiry has a lot of merit and fits with my aspirations to get back to basics. I am much more confident of my old-style filing system which lets me readily (mostly!) find documents, whereas my digital filing is more like Topsy – it just grewed. At this point it’s worth reiterating that I have been researching for nearly 30 years, long before the digital era hence a partial-explanation of the Topsy system.

Hard copy system

I have long had multiple A4 arch-lever folders categorised by family name, and sometimes by generation. Within each folder I have the documents sourced by topic eg church, land, civic, certificates, military. This means that I have only one “cluster” of information to peruse if I want to locate a document. Generally this involves minimal disruption and has worked well over many years.

It also allows me to have folders for what have become my one place studies on Dorfprozelten and Clare. Dorfprozelten info is mostly filed by family as there is a limited number of them, while Clare is by topic. General research has its own tab/folder.

The only problem with this system is the increasing number of bookcases, and filing, required.

Digital filing system

This is where I start to come to grief more often than with hard copies. Once again I have all my families in one folder “111 Family History” which places it at the top of my file directories. Within that folder I have sub-folders by surname and in particular cases, by place or research topic. If the information regarding place is specific to one family I file under that name.

With women I file under married name, post-marriage, and by family of origin/maiden name prior to marriage.

Screen dump filing system

I haven’t been in the practice of naming the files consistently and this is one thing I want to remedy. I do use the surname, first name and content/source concept (again, generally rather than consistently).

In the past I was in the habit of filing photographs, including those of documents in archives/libraries, under my Photographs folder by name/place etc. I don’t believe this is working any more and that I need to move research photos to the family history folder which relates. In this way I have them all “together”. Nor have I been good about adding metadata but have been slowly adding this over time and with more knowledge under my belt thanks to a RootsTech lab class, hopefully I’ll get better. I need to remember that slow and steady wins the race rather than hustle, bustle.

Cluster Research (FANs) and One Place Studies (OPS)

This is where I can really get in a tangle. Even before I signed up to a One Place Study, I had been collecting all relevant names from whichever parish register/document I’d been looking at for my family. I’ve found it all too easy for this to get messy. It’s also why I find genealogy programs restrictive but perhaps I need to have another go with an open mind. I’m presently exploring Family Historian, RootsMagic and Heredis as my long-time Aussie program, Relatively Yours, seems to be on the way out which is a great shame as it has always offered an innovative idea of family.

In the past I’ve entered the OPS data into an Excel workbook which is saved under the family name, or the place, depending on which is relevant. This lets me sort the data into family clusters in a separate spreadsheet while maintaining the original in time sequence. I make a practice of entering surnames/family names in a separate column from first names which makes sorting more reliable and effective.

Brickbats

DunceI’ve been slack about consistent naming of files and I haven’t had an overall plan before launching into naming files.

I’ve separated photos I’ve taken of documents from my other research documents on that family (in some/many cases). Quite honestly I have way too many photos of all types!

My Downloads folder has become a default documents folder and needs a major spring clean and the relocation of sub-folders to their correct place.

The filing keeps on piling up until it annoys the hell out of me and I have to clear the decks – often before I travel!

bouquetBouquets

I’ve kept my hard copy files according to a pretty coherent system. This applies in particular to my Kunkel family files because this is how I ordered them when writing my book. Within the Kunkel Book folder I have the family documents subdivided by the first generation. I have the photo folder following the same system. However, as you can see, I still have some wayward files.Family History Book screen dump

With my East Clare discoveries on Trove I’ve been more consistent with my file naming conventions, using SURNAME, First Name, article reference. This may be because I’ve been doing these more recently. If I source photos elsewhere I add a code which indicates the repository eg QSA, JOL, SLQ.

I did manage to keep my Kunkel research documents in a coherent fashion which made it possible to publish the family history and organise two reunions, for which I set up my own database. (some positivity is needed here!) However, even here you can see that some wayward files have escaped from their proper place.

 WHERE TO?

Slow downGeniAus has given us hope and affirmation that there’s no one right way to process our family history (though she was a bit harsh on the cat!). However with the deluge of digital information I can’t avoid the conclusion that the data is now the master and I’m the slave….I need to reverse that process if it’s not to drown me out. What is quite illogical is that I’ve actually got worse since I’ve retired and had more time available…go figure!

I think Jill is absolutely spot-on when she says we have to choose a system which suits us – without that we will constantly self-sabotage.

Without a doubt I need to SLOW DOWN, take time, and be consistent.

 MIND MAPPING

mind-maps-for-genealogy-cover-smallThanks to a tip in the Hangout from Alex of Family Tree Frog blog, I’ve been playing with a new program called Coggle which I find quite intuitive to use. Her mention of this is timely as it fits with my long-term interest (but inaction), and the book I bought at RootsTech on Mindmapping for Genealogists. I’m playing with Coggle to mindmap how I’ve set out my Congress presentation on the marriage of family and local history.

 C’mon I’ve hung myself out to dry here….Do be brave and tell me: Am I alone in the schmozzle of filing/piling that I have? Are you totally organised and neatly systematic?

 

 

 

 

Ethics, Genealogists and Conferences

Ethics and equity and the principles of justice do not change with the calendar.
(DH Lawrence) from http://www.brainyquote.com/

family-history-back-to-basicsSometimes we need to be reminded that this genealogical passion of ours isn’t just about vacuuming up as many names, dates and data as we can track down, wherever we find them. We are also obligated to act responsibly, with respect for family (especially living family), ownership of information, and with accountability to those who share their expertise with us.

With the upcoming AFFHO Congress in Canberra, all attendees need to become mindful and informed of ethical standards which should guide our family history research and how we disseminate it. Let’s get back to basics with these issues.

One of the earliest sessions I attended at FGS/RootsTech was one entitled The Ethical Genealogist, by highly regarded speaker Judy Russell – click to see an interview with her by James Tanner of Genealogy’s Star blog. (Although her session wasn’t video-taped, you can purchase the audio-recording here for $US10).

I’d never heard Judy speak before, though I follow the wisdom she shares on her blog, The Legal Genealogist. Only minutes into the presentation it was obvious that her excellent reputation was entirely deserved…she’s an engaging and informative speaker. Aussie genealogists who are planning on taking the 11th Unlock the Past Cruise from New Zealand to Australia will have the joy of hearing her present.

Anyway, back to my theme. Straight up Judy mentioned that it was okay to take photos for social media (at least that’s what I wrote down). Blind Freddy could work out that she didn’t mean take snaps of every single one of her slides and share the whole content. What’s happened subsequently, for her and other speakers, has caused something of firestorm which is pertinent to any conference we attend, whether wearing our genealogy hats or others.

Image purchased from Shutterstock.com

Image purchased from Shutterstock.com

Judy captured the essence of ethics in the playground rules we learnt in kindergarten:

  • tell the truth
  • play nice
  • don’t tell tales.

I’m not going to elaborate on these here – I think they’re pretty self- evident though Judy’s nuanced discussion of them certainly wasn’t elementary. However, when in the 21st century, with the avalanche of interest in genealogy some of these golden rules seem to have been lost.

I’ve mentioned before in my blog posts, that we should always, always ASK for permission to use someone else’s content, research or images. We should always, always ACKNOWLEDGE the other person’s research (whatever form it takes). I’ve certainly had photos from my website siphoned off and attached to family trees, without either of these happening, despite the copyright notice across the photo.

Image created in Microsoft Office Word.

Image created by Pauleen Cass in Microsoft Office Word.

Just recently, I also found a blog post I’d written (of which I was rather proud) for World Wide Genealogy, “happily” conjoined with a genea-product promotion on LinkedIn. I was NOT a happy camper because in my opinion it inferred that the post belonged to the product-owner. Carelessness or contrivance? Only weeks later the same thing happened with other genimates’ posts. Needless to say this was not a booth I visited in the Expo Hall at RootsTech – the product may be useful but I voted with my feet, and my wallet! Mind you, if the same person had been working I’d have been tempted to shame-job them by visiting.

stop-is-it-yours-ask-acknowledge

Image created with keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

It seems to me that too many of us are getting so absorbed with a belief in entitlement, with the justification that “I’m just sharing”, that we happily forget it’s not actually ours to share, and furthermore when we’ve signed up for programs we’ve specifically stated we will not abuse our membership in this way. These presentations, papers, slides, photos do NOT belong to us. After all if a person works making a chair, for example, we don’t think it’s okay to simply walk off with it and share it with our mates. Why? Because it’s the person’s income stream and also it’s THEFT. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s no defence.

391 ethical dilemmasBack in February 2015 on the 4th Unlock the Past cruise, Jill Ball aka GeniAus hosted an Ethics Panel which was very interesting. One of the questions was around photographing every slide in a presenter’s talk. The panel was universal in believing this was a breach of their copyright. We have regularly bemoaned that we didn’t tape this session.

There have been some excellent posts written post-RootsTech, which ought to be high on our compulsory reading list.

Credit and Copyright by Judy Russell

Copyright and the Genealogy Lecture by Judy Russell

More Genealogy Copyright Issues by Michael Leclerc on the Mocavo blog.

Genealogy’s Star: James Tanner regularly posts on similar issues, based on his legal experience.

You can read the AFFHO Ethics standards here.

For further reading you might want to look at the following sites referenced by Judy Russell as providing standards for genealogists:

Board for Certification of Genealogists– Standards

Association of Professional Genealogists – Ethics

Thanks Judy Russell for your knowledge, commitment and discernment in raising our performance standards as genealogists and family historians.

Back to Basics 1: First Quarter 2015

tiger's tailI nearly let myself get dragged along by the tiger’s tail again with all the enthusiasm Thomas MacEntee has generated around the geneaglobe with his Genealogy Do-Over (GDO) Project.

The GDO Facebook site has been abuzz with ideas, strategies and new software suggestions. Anyone with genealogy interests can join in – you just need to ask to join the group. I’m certainly going to use some of these suggestions along with Thomas’s GDO activities.

However, as I said on my blogiversary post, I also want to go about things a slightly different way. Further reflection made me realise that some of my planned activities need to be deferred until April as they don’t fit with my commitments and priorities this quarter.family-history-back-to-basics

So MY GOALS for January to March 2015 will be:

DNA

I’ve had my autosomal test done quite a while ago and Mum gave permission for hers in 2014. My goal from testing was to learn more about my problem Irish ancestors: the McSherry/Sherry/McSharry family (northern Ireland?), the Gavins and Murphys (Kildare & Wicklow), the Furlongs (Offaly) and Callaghans (Wexford).

Recently there have been close cousin DNA matches, which certainly helps triangulate the data. However, I still feel I’m wandering in the forest with Red Riding Hood, trying to identify how to take my matches further. It may be scientifically true that we are cousins, but I want to know in which line! Not to mention the wild-card that has two cousins on my mother’s side also matching my husband’s DNA….now that’s tricky!

Objective: I’ve pencilled in lots of DNA presentations at the combined Roots Tech/FGS conferences Salt Lake City in February 2015, so I’m hoping that after that I’ll be able to move forward more accurately, and confidently.

EDUCATION and RESEARCH

There’s lots of learning opportunities ahead for me with RootsTech and FGS then only a month later is the Aussie version of FGS with Congress 2015. There’s going to be lots of new speakers to listen to, genimates to meet, and information and stories to swap, as well as research opportunities.

En route to Salt Lake I’ll be taking a couple of days to pop up to Toowoomba and Murphys Creek for just a little more research about the place where the Kunkel family settled.Revisit record revise

In Salt Lake, pre-conferences, I’ll be focusing on the books section of the Family History Library. I’ve been in the habit of hiring in microfilms for many years, and I can continue to do that any time. What I can’t do in Australia is read any of the books that are in the library. Helen Smith has posted an excellent article on how to approach your research at the FH Library.

In Canberra, for Congress 2015, I’ve allowed some extra days and will be following up some archive sources for Duncan McCorkindale who helped build the nation’s capital, as well as visiting the War Memorial, National Library etc. I know there’s going to be far more to do than time will permit.

After Canberra I’m heading to Sydney for a few days but that’s mainly a holiday event to celebrate our anniversary. If something pressing comes up I may sneak out to Kingswood but will try to stick with the living not the dead. (I’m sure himself will be pleased, and amazed, to hear this!)

CONGRESS 2015

Congress 2015Blogging: As you know I’m an official Congress blogger, along with Jill Ball (Geniaus) and Shauna Hicks. We still have some exciting speaker interviews to bring you, and during Congress we’ll also be blogging about what we’re seeing, learning, and doing.

Presentations: I am doing two presentations at Congress and both papers have already been submitted to the conference organisers. However I also have the Powerpoint slides, as well as my on-the-day content, ahead of me. I really want to get these away before heading off to Salt Lake in February.

SOFTWARE

Family Historian 6: I’ve downloaded the update to version 6, and will be trying to learn a little more about it so I can pick Jill’s brains while I’m in Canberra.

Evidentia has been getting lots of kudos on the GDO Facebook page so I downloaded it and will give it a whirl.

Folder Marker is a program which lets you colour code your computer folders. I hadn’t known about it before but thanks to the FB poster who mentioned it, I’ve downloaded it and will see what I think and whether it helps.

RECORDING RESEARCH

BAck to Basics flow diagramI am still ambivalent about how much data I want to store in a genie program (Family Historian) vs a Narrative document/blog posts.

Blogging suits my preference for narrative family history and also lets me tell stories of the families for whom I have no plans of writing a published family history or of updating my finds on the Kunkel family. I write my blog posts in Word initially then cut and paste. A simple change I’ll make is to save the file with a surname leader, and save to that family’s folder.

In my hard-copy files I sort by family (where I’m not inundated in paper) and by generation (when I have heaps of info, eg the Kunkels). Within this I sort by “topic” or theme eg legal matters, petitions, certificates, church, military. That’s how my brain works, so I’m happy with that system.

Blogging has given me a community of like-minded friends who are supportive and interested. Unfortunately in recent months I’ve been a poor genie-friend myself and not supported others nearly well enough. Time to go back to commenting more.

Outcome 1: If I get to the end of 2015 with my electronic files in better, more systematic order, and tagged, I’ll be happy.

Outcome 2: Meanwhile there’s going to be a whole lot of scanning going on. Plus I plan to get back to commenting on blog posts.

Outcome 3: I have a suite of oral histories about Murphy’s Creek that I want to transcribe and also digitise. This is a project which will occur across 2015.

ANCIENT HISTORY

Another GDO Facebook person, Lynn, linked this story which suggests ways to manage our data. I like the idea that our initial research should be by surname rather than with a focus on families as entities, and I particularly empathised with the content. When I started all those years ago, pre-personal computers, I kept my research findings on A4 paper by person’s name and didn’t collate into families until I’d established the links. Whether it’s a natural style for me, or just habit I don’t know.

FAMILY BUSINESS

Lots of family events coming up in the next few months, as always, means this quarter is a busy one every year. On top of that retirement is looming for my other half (I’ve been retired for a couple of years), plus downsizing and packing up an inordinate amount of “stuff”.

WHERE TO?

Over the weeks and months, I’ll be reporting in on what I’m achieving and where I’ve gone astray. Thoughts, tips and support will be much appreciated. Like Geniaus I won’t be completely foregoing tangential genealogy – after all, that early morning inspiration may be an ancestor whispering in my ear.

How are you going with your 2015 planning?

5th Blogiversary: Reflections and Goals

fifth birthday candlesIt’s hard to believe, but today is this blog’s 5th anniversary.  Perhaps it’s why I’ve been feeling something of a five-year itch with it.  Over recent months, in a scattered way, I’ve been reflecting on where I’m at with both my research and blogging. My prevailing sense has been that my blogs, and my research, have got away from me – another way to say I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, despite chewing furiously.

tiger's tailWhen I bought a large mobile whiteboard about a year ago, I wrote at the top “Beware of the tiger’s tail”. What I meant by that, was to be strategic in my blogging rather than catching hold of the tiger’s tail and having it drag me along willy-nilly. Sure, I’ve written lots of stories relevant to my research but I’m equally sure I’ve not been strategic in my approach. I’ve been tempted to take myself off to Kakadu for a couple of days sans technology and take the chance to step back and decide what’s important to my family history research, my blog and what I want to achieve in the future.

So where do I go from here…other than Kakadu?

STRATEGY 1

In the past my practice has been to write up my family history in narrative form – partly because I started in the pre-computer age, and partly because it suited my style, following an example demonstrated by two academic researchers I met.

Genealogy programs tend to make me feel claustrophobic and for a long time I felt that the Australian program, Relatively Yours, solved my needs best. However the time has come to jump ship and make the move to another program, probably Family Historian. I definitely want one that permits more than a restrictive view of what constitutes “family”. After all I’m interested in my ancestors’ broad life experiences, not just the hatches, matches and despatches. I want to know the nuances of their lives, the place, siblings, neighbours and former neighbours etc as they so often break down brick walls.Revisit record revise

I have published my Kunkel family history but with so much coming online, especially via Trove, there are always new additions. Similarly I have unpublished narratives for several of my other lines: McCorkindale, Melvin, Gavin.

Project: Transfer my RY data to Family Historian. Because of the particular aspect of Relatively Yours I don’t find the gedcom works as well as it might.

Project: Prepare a spreadsheet which lets me check which certificates and records I’ve explored, hold or am still missing. Work on timelines for my tricky ancestors.

STRATEGY 2

A couple of months ago I wrote a post for the Worldwide Genealogy blog called My Three Rs of Genealogy Research: Review, Record, Revise. It certainly seems pertinent within this context.

family-history-back-to-basicsOverall I feel my genealogy (the structure of who’s who) is accurate: I’m a Doubting Thomas and will worry at something like a bone until I find the answer. If it’s not certain, then I will only add it as an hypothesis in my narrative, clearly stated as such…another advantage of the narrative model.

A month or so ago I added this note to my whiteboard as I wrestled with the “where to from here” question: Back to Basics.

Project: Review my many notes in over 50 notebooks from archive and library visits, LDS microfilms etc (and continue to digitise them). Incorporate the information into my narratives and genealogy program. I will also focus on whether my assumptions have been correct or whether I need more data.

STRATEGY 3

red-do-over-button - smallThomas MacEntee’s new Genealogy Do-Over Program is opportunely timed for me, as I think it will be complementary to what I’m trying to do here. However, I won’t be packing away my 28 years of research as I don’t think I need to…after all my data doesn’t come from online trees or other’s research. In (almost?) every case I’ve started with the basics and gone from there.

However, I will be going back to revisit my basics as mentioned above, and putting the research microscope over the conclusions I’ve reached, the gaps in my research, and where I can pursue further information. In short, be more strategic. I’m confident there’ll be lots of tips in the Genealogy Do-Over Program that will help me with what I want to achieve.

Project: Follow along with the Geneabloggers’ Genealogy Do-Over Program and implement strategies as appropriate.

SUMMARY

I’m expecting 2015 to be a big year for the Cassmob clan as a lot is planned. Hopefully I’ll be able to tackle these tasks along with the family goals.

BAck to Basics flow diagramMy over-arching goals:

Be Strategic 

Back to Basics

Reflect, Review, Revise and Record.

There are also other decisions to be made about my Dorfprozelten blog, which has been languishing unattended, and my East Clare Emigrants blog.

THANKS

starsAs this fifth year draws to a close I’d like to thank you all for reading. Blogging may have sometimes taken me off-track research but it’s given me a wonderful world-wide community of friends, some I’ve already met, and some I hope to meet at Roots Tech and the FGS Conference in February.

Thanks so much for reading my blog posts, commenting and being supportive!! You’re all stars!