A Genealogy New Year

A Genealogy New Year

2016The tradition of making new years’ resolutions began thousands of years when ancient civilizations made promises to the gods for such things as paying back debts and reaffirming loyalty to their ruler.  January was chosen as the start of a new year to in honor of  Janus, the god of new beginnings. His two-faces looked both backward to the past and forward to the future.

Like millions of others, I start my new year making resolutions. Most of my resolutions are simply ideals I strive for, rather than firm commitments, and as expected, they fall to the wayside a few days into the new year.

While my commitment to losing weight may not be strong, I am firmly committed to make some changes where my genealogy research is concerned. Resolutions tend to fail for two reasons: they are not written down and they are not made public to at least one other person who can hold them accountable. I realize no one will slap my hand if I fail to follow-through, but I want to hold myself accountable by sharing my top five resolutions, listed below:

Organize my files, both digital and physical.

I have close to 40 years of genealogy research and data in various states of organization.  My later work is better organized than my earlier work, but I lack consistency. My goal is to organize all of my direct family lines in a consistent manner. Many of my loose papers that I have kept “just in case” can be tossed because the information has already been added to my tree.  The rest can be added to my future research To-Do list.   If I can’t bear to part with something, I can scan it and place in digital files, freeing up space for those documents that I need to keep.

Clean up my sources and citations

Like many old-time genealogists, my early work is not sourced as well as it should. My later work may have sources and citations but I have not always applied the genealogical standards. I’ve got too much time invested in my work for someone to disregard it simply because I can’t show where the information came from or how it supports my conclusions.

Prepare for the demise of Family Tree Maker

The surprise announcement that Ancestry would stop selling and supporting Family Tree Maker software has left the genealogy community in a state of turmoil. I know the software will not suddenly turn into a pumpkin at midnight on December 31, 2016, but a lot of my current research habits revolve around the FTM-Ancestry tree sync process. So steps need to be taken to capture as much as I can before the end of the year, and to change my habits so that I am not relying on the sync process.

Utilize my DNA evidence to break through brick walls.

I recently realized that I am leaving  potential genealogy gems on the table by not using my DNA results and matches to discover new leads. This epiphany came to me a few days ago after I added a new surname to my direct line and realized that maybe some of my DNA matches could be through this line. How much more could I learn from doing periodic reviews of my new results and following up on leads?  I am also considering submitting my Ancestry results to other DNA databases to increase my odds of finding matches.

Write more.

My secret desire is to be a writer. I would love to write the Great American Novel but first I have to become a consistent writer. I also love genealogy, so what better way to combine my two passions than to develop a writing habit by blogging about genealogy. That was my goal when I started this blog last year and while I have not maintained any schedule for posting in the past, my goal for 2016 is to submit a post once a week.


My goals are ambitious but on January 1st, any thing seems possible.Each month I will provide an update of my progress. Feel free to offer suggestions and ideas for making this the year I keep my resolutions. If you would like join me by committing to a genealogy resolution, feel free to publically commit in the comments below.