26 February 2019

What Do the Records Say About Your Ancestor's Town?

You can get real insight into your ancestor's hometown by looking closely at its birth, marriage, and death records.

Not long ago I discovered the original hometown of my 2nd great grandmother, Colomba. She's the only one of my 2nd great grandmothers to leave Italy and settle in America. I wanted to know which town she left behind.

I had to piece together bits of evidence to learn her hometown. I discovered Colomba was born in 1845 as Vittoria Colomba Consolazio in the town of Santa Paolina, Avellino, Italy. By the time I learned this, I already had years of experience reading and documenting the vital records from a few of my nearby ancestral hometowns.

This town stood out among its neighbors. Reading through all the records uncovered the differences.
This town stood out among its neighbors. Reading through all the records uncovered the differences.
In those other towns, about 9 out of 10 people were farmers. They worked their plots of land to produce enough food and livestock for their own survival. A much smaller number of townsmen were shopkeepers, shoemakers, butchers, and barbers. There was usually one doctor in the town.

But Santa Paolina looked different. It's a very small town. Very small. Most of the marriages in the 1800s involved a partner from another town because there weren't enough potential spouses to go around. That was the case with my 2nd great grandparents. Antonio Saviano came from another town to marry Vittoria Colomba Consolazio in Santa Paolina. Before long, they moved back to his hometown.

Apart from importing marriage partners, Santa Paolina had another noticeable difference. Santa Paolina's men had better jobs. They weren't working their land to survive. This town had a lot more tradesmen (bricklayers, blacksmiths, and manufacturers) and professionals (merchants, notaries, and doctors).

So many spouses came from another town. What drew them to this spot?
So many spouses came from another town. What drew them to this spot?
The fact that fewer people appeared to be scraping by says a lot about the town. And possibly about the mindset of the people there.

This little town is in a stream-filled valley at the foot of a mountain where prehistoric man was known to live. The town's craftsmen from the Neolithic age (which ended about 2000 BC) produced fine pottery. Today the town is known for its wines and handmade lace. Records of this town date back to the year 1083. My roots in the town may run that deep.

Was it their centuries-deep roots that made this town different than its neighbors? Did their fertile land ensure the wealth of the vineyard owners? Did that attract young men and women from other towns to marry into Santa Paolina families? Did it allow people the "luxury" of being craftsmen instead of laborers?

When my 2nd great grandfather Antonio came to Santa Paolina for marriage, he was a shoemaker. He came from such a small town, I walked up and down most of it in a few minutes last year. Antonio had a different occupation each time one of his children was born. He was a bricklayer, a manufacturer, a farmer, a driver, and a merchant.

Based on marriage records, it seems my 2nd great grandmother's brothers may have inherited the family's land. That may be why Vittoria and Antonio moved back to his hometown. It may also be why Antonio kept changing professions.

If Vittoria's father did overlook her, that may have encouraged my 2nd great grandparents to come to America. According to the U.S. census, 10 years after arriving in New York City, 67-year-old Antonio had his "own income". He retired soon after. His family never seemed to want for anything, and Antonio was respected in his community. It looks like my 2nd great grandparents made the right decision.

Thanks to DNA, I've discovered some distant cousins with shared roots in Santa Paolina. I'm busily working to fill out our common branches. Somewhere in those documents I may find out why this town was so different than its neighbors.

What can vital records tell you about your ancestor's hometown when they lived there?

22 February 2019

This Project Makes Your Family History Larger than Life

This is the next best thing to seeing and holding your ancestor's original documents.

You're so wrapped up in your genealogy treasures. And rightly so! You've found proof for all those birth names, birth dates, marriages, and deaths. You've got immigration and naturalization records. You've got military records and census sheets galore.

Then you visit your cousins and have no good way to share the enormous scope of your family history work. What can you do?

The answer is paper. At least, until I invent the family tree hologram. And big paper, at that.

I've lived my life at a computer keyboard since 1982. I prefer to keep every genealogy document in digital form. Named logically, filed logically, and backed up weekly. But sometimes paper is the most powerful way to share the joy of your family tree.

Here's a project that will help you get those cousins excited about your crazy, obsessive, endless hobby.

An inexpensive paper cutter makes this process so easy, you won't believe it.
An inexpensive paper cutter makes this process so easy, you won't believe it.
Notice the 12" ruler at the top for scale.

This project has just a few steps:
  • print
  • trim
  • tape
  • file
You're going to print over-sized documents that your cousins can read. No magnifying glass required. You'll start with your closest relatives—the ones for whom you've found documents.

You can print across several sheets of paper from certain programs.
You can print across several sheets
of paper from certain programs.

My two grandfathers immigrated to the United States from Italy, so they're a great place for me to start. I can print out full-sized copies of all their major documents:
  • ship manifests
  • census sheets
  • naturalization papers
  • military documents
  • birth, marriage, and death certificates
To make these big printouts at home, you have a couple of options.

Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Paint (yes, plain old Paint) let you print your image on multiple sheets of paper. I like Acrobat because it can add "cut marks" that come in handy when you're ready to put the sheets together. In Paint, you can choose how many pages to print to. For example, you might find that 2-pages wide by 2-pages high is a good size. For Mac users, whichever application you use, look for Scale options in the Print dialog. Note: I was able to open a document image in Photoshop and export is as a PDF. This is my best option.

Once you print out your images, a paper cutter is the best tool for trimming off the excess. You can find low-priced paper cutters like this one from Overstock. I bought a similar one a few years ago for $15. They should have some in your local craft or sewing store, too.

Now line up your trimmed sheets, two at a time. You're going to want to tape them together on the back side. Don't skimp on the tape. It's going to form a very convenient fold-line for storing your oversized document.

These big documents are very impressive, and so much easier to read than a shrunken down version.

An accordion folder is an easy way to carry a huge number of big documents to your next family gathering.
An accordion folder is an easy way to carry a huge number of big documents to your next family gathering.

Print and assemble all the documents you like for a particular ancestor. Then fold them down, clip them together, and put them into an accordion folder. Fill your accordion folder with documents and bring it with you the next time you visit your relatives.

I dare your cousins not to light up at the sight of these big, old-timey documents with their ancestor's name on them!

19 February 2019

Try This Tool to Find a Missing Census

When a search doesn't find your relative in the census, there is a tool that can help.

It's been 7 years since they released the 1940 United States Federal Census. And I still can't find a handful of my relatives. I've tried searching for them a bunch of ways. No luck!

Locate the group of census pages you need.
Locate the group of census pages you need.

If only I could go page-by-page through what I think was their neighborhood. Luckily, there's a tool to help us do that.

Computer professional Stephen P. Morse decided to make genealogy searches easier. His collection of tools focuses on the census (U.S., Canada, and U.K.), ship manifests, DNA, and more.

His Unified Census ED (Enumeration District) Finder helps you find the census pages for a particular address. Then you can start paging through the collection.

Let's walk through an example. My great aunt Edie married in 1936, but I've never found her in the 1940 census. Her marriage certificate says she and her husband-to-be lived 2½ blocks apart in the Bronx, New York. When I was a little girl, they lived next door to my grandmother. That building is between both of their 1936 addresses. I'll start my search there.

4 steps to narrow down your search for the right census page.
4 steps to narrow down your search for the right census page.

In the Stephen Morse tool I can enter a street address and it's smart enough to offer me the short list of cross streets. I can click a link to open Google Maps to that address to see which streets are near this address. Since this is a city address, I can enter several cross streets. I have the option of entering the 1930 enumeration district for this address if I have it (which I do). But we're already narrowed down to a single enumeration district as a result.

Click a button to find an address on the map and see its cross streets.
Click a button to find an address on the map and see its cross streets.

Where to locate the enumeration district on a U.S. Federal census sheet.
Where to locate the enumeration district 
on a U.S. Federal census sheet.

To find the enumeration district for an address, look at the top right corner of any Federal census sheet. You should see the supervisor's district and the enumeration district numbers.

Click the result link, then choose where you want to view the census pages. I'll go with Ancestry.com. In this case, my neighborhood of interest is part of a 26-page collection. I can focus on the names—particularly on the first names—and try to find my great aunt, her husband, and her daughter.

I found a military record that makes me think my great uncle was away from home in 1940. I'll concentrate on my great aunt and her daughter's first names. And I'll keep in mind that my great aunt went by at least 4 variations of her first name.

I've gone through these 26 pages a few times without finding my great aunt Edie. My grandparents, my great grandparents, and some cousins are in these 26 pages. But not the great aunt I'm looking for!

If my great uncle was away, were my great aunt and her baby staying with or near her mother-in-law? I can use the Stephen Morse website to search for that address, too. I'll follow the same steps as before:
  1. Choose the right census year
  2. Enter an address
  3. Click to view the map and find cross streets
  4. Start searching the pages
My great aunt's mother-in-law lived about a block away, but she was part of a different set of census pages. The Stephen Morse tool narrows down my search to 2 enumeration districts. One has 43 pages; the other has 32.

Side-note: I have so many relatives who lived in the Bronx, I'm seeing lots of familiar names on these pages. It helps to keep your family tree open to see if you need the page where you've found another relative.

I'm sorry to say I struck out and did not find my great aunt. But I found lots of people I know, like my Uncle Silvio as a little boy. I even found the guy my mom was once engaged to!

This is a good method that's worth trying. I'm going to pick another missing relative and try again.

15 February 2019

4 Types of Family Tree Errors Only You Can Find

Place names are a big challenge in your family tree. Can you improve yours?

I'm working on a new family tree project that I hope to share with you soon. My goal is to create visualizations of my family tree like you've never seen before.

I'm preparing the data for this project, going through long spreadsheets almost one line at a time.

But I discovered something along the way. In fact, I discovered lots of things: errors that no software tool can find for me. They're human errors that are obvious only to the human that made the errors. Me!

What I had was a very long list of every address or state or country in my family tree, and each name associated with it. As I scrolled through the list, I saw my mistakes: I had people associated with places I know they've never been.

It's easy to click the wrong suggested place. Time to find those errors.
It's easy to click the wrong suggested place. Time to find those errors.

1st Error Type: Wrong Selection

Family Tree Maker is great about suggesting place names as you type. Each time I start to type "Italy" I see the next suggestion is a place called Italy Cross in Canada. And I did it. I accidentally associated two 18th century Italians with Italy Cross, Canada by mistake. I made a similar mistake with a couple that lives in Argentina. Who even knew there was a place called Argentina, Alajuela, Costa Rica?

2nd Error Type: What Was I Thinking?

I had another man from Pennsylvania associated with Hamilton, Bermuda. It's marked as a departure, citing the New York Passenger Lists as a source. But there's no date, no image, and no travel companion. It seems like a complete mistake. And since this man is the father of an ex-in-law, I'm deleting the whole fact.

3rd Error Type: Inconsistency

I also spotted a style error. My standard for U.S. addresses is to spell out the word County. For example: 328 Superior Street, Youngstown, Mahoning County, Ohio, USA. In the long list of places in my family tree, I saw a couple scroll by that were missing the word County. It may not be a big deal, but I'd rather have it be right.

4th Error Type: Stragglers

While looking for an example of a place name missing the word County, I found another type of error. An address belonging to no one. It probably belonged to someone who used to be in my tree. But I've decided to limit the scope of some far-flung branches. Because I deleted a lot of people, I may have a bunch of straggling place names like 17 Halls Heights Avenue.

The people are gone, but their addresses linger on.
The people are gone, but their addresses linger on.

To find these types of errors in your family tree, you can start by browsing the list of places you've used. Family Tree Maker has a Places tab. RootsMagic has a Place List. I don't use FamilySearch, but I don't see a lot of control options there.

Do any places stand out as being odd to you? I ran the Family Tree Maker Place Usage Report to generate a list, but it doesn't include places that have no people associated with them.

Add this task to your Rainy Day Genealogy List or your I'm Bored Genealogy List. It's another effort that'll make your family tree that much stronger.

12 February 2019

Did I Find a Scandal in My Family Tree?

If the people involved are long gone, a scandalous story should be OK to share. Don't you think?

I've read thousands of birth, marriage, and death records in my family tree research. They're mostly in Italian and from the 1800s.

This was flagged as an error, but, unfortunately, it's correct.
This was flagged as an error, but, unfortunately, it's correct.

In my tiny ancestral hometowns, a few babies were born out of wedlock each year. Sometimes the birth record names the mother, but not the father. Most of the time it doesn't name either one. Only the midwife knows who gave birth to the baby.

Doesn't that seem like it should have been a huge scandal in the early 1800s? Especially for the woman who admits to having a child out of wedlock. But it happened every year. That's just the way it was.

Yesterday, after making a ton of edits to my Family Tree Maker file, I thought I'd better check it for errors. I exported my GEDCOM file and tested it with Family Tree Analyzer. It's a free program with a ton of powerful tools.

What a lifesaver that program is. It found some mysterious duplicate fact entries I didn't know were there. It found a woman, all by herself, connected to no one. She was a forgotten remnant of a marriage I'd decided to delete from my family tree.

But the most interesting thing Family Tree Analyzer found may be a deep, dark family secret.

This baby was born just a little too long after his father died.
This baby was born just a little too long after his father died.

Pasquale Cormano was born on 21 November 1811, a full 10 months after his father died. The death record of his father, also named Pasquale, shows he died on 27 January 1811. Another copy of the record, written for his grandson's marriage in 1841, confirms that death date.

That supposed 10-month pregnancy made me look more closely at all the documents. It was baby Pasquale's uncle, Leonardo Cormano, who presented the baby to the mayor when he was born. That's normal when the father of the baby is dead or unable to bring the baby himself.

It was traditional to name a baby after their father if he died before the baby was born. If the dead man's child was a girl, she got a feminized version of her dead father's name. Like Pasquala, Giuseppa, or Giovanna. When Pasquale Cormano's widow, Maria Saveria Paradiso, gave birth that 21st day of November, she named the baby Pasquale after her late husband.

But…are we to believe that Maria Saveria and her husband had relations as late as the day of his death? And that the baby was in utero for a whole extra month?

Was something scandalous happening when this man was about to die?
Was something scandalous happening when this man was about to die?

I checked out the baby's "Uncle Leo" Cormano. He was a few years older than his brother Pasquale. And when he died, 13 years after baby Pasquale was born, he had never married. He was a 54-year-old contadino—a man who worked the land.

The mother of this miracle baby, Maria Saveria, was a young mother of two when her husband died. When she finally gave birth to little Pasquale, she was 25 years old with 2 toddlers and an infant.

Isn't it easily possible that the ill-fated Pasquale was not the father of the baby? Isn't it intriguing to think that "Uncle Leo" may have been more involved than it seems?

So, what happened after baby Pasquale was born to a dead father? In 1814, widow Maria Saveria had 3 children, ages 7, 6, and almost 3 years old. That's when she married a widower named Giovanni Palmieri. The year before, Giovanni's 9-year-old daughter died, leaving him with 5 young children.

It's hard to imagine that their marriage, creating a household of 8 children, was a better option. But they each needed a partner to help raise the children and keep a house.

Ten years after Maria Saveria and Giovanni married, "Uncle Leo" died alone. Maria Saveria lost her 2nd husband in 1831 when she was 45. By then, another of Giovanni's children had died, the older children were married, and only her 3 Cormano children were still with her.

You know what that means, don't you? I have to search for Maria Saveria's third marriage!

What will a routine check of your family tree file reveal?

08 February 2019

Which Genealogy Apps Are Right for You?

With the right apps, that computer in your pocket can be the ultimate genealogy tool.

The first time I went on a genealogy research trip, I brought a stack of papers and a notebook. I couldn't bring my family tree with me. I wouldn't dare bring my expensive laptop computer on the New York City subway!

That was before I had the computer-in-my-pocket we call an iPhone. With the abundance of free apps for iOS and Android cellphones, there's no reason you can't take it with you.

Say you're visiting a cousin who's never seen a photo of your shared great grandmother. Pull out your phone, open your tree, and there's great grandma. Then you cousin takes out her collection of family wedding portraits. Pull out your phone, open your scanner app, and take a digital copy of the photos with you.

Here are some of the top-of-the-line genealogy apps for you to try. They're all free. Only the Ancestry and Ancestry Academy apps require an Ancestry.com login.

Whichever genealogy websites you like to use, there's an app for that.
Whichever genealogy websites you like to use, there's an app for that.

Family Tree Apps

These apps deliver your web-based family tree in a mobile-friendly format. Choose the app that applies to you. My tree is on Ancestry.com, so I have the Ancestry app.

You'll have access to everyone in your tree with every fact and document you've attached to them. It's ideal for taking your entire tree with you, in your pocket.

I had my tree loaded in the Ancestry app before I went to a family wake recently. With the tree loaded, there was no waiting and no data usage. I had it ready when distant cousins were curious about everyone's relationship.

Two views of my family tree in the Ancestry app.
Two views of my family tree in the Ancestry app.

Cemetery Apps

You can use cemetery apps in two main ways. First, imagine you're in a cemetery where you think your ancestor is buried. But you don't know which section or row they're in. You might find that information in a cemetery app.

Next, imagine you're in a generous mood on a nice day. You want to snap some photos in a cemetery and upload them for relatives to find. You can see which photos people need, and if a grave has been photographed already.
The Find A Grave app shows you where the closest cemeteries are.
The Find A Grave app shows you where the closest cemeteries are.

Digitizing Apps

How many times has someone taken a cellphone picture of a photograph in a frame and sent it to you? You're grateful, but the photo is crooked, the frame is leaning backwards, and the faces look distorted. Don't do this to someone you love.

You can avoid taking crooked photos. With Cam Scanner, I've photographed a wrinkled, discolored sheet of paper and output a clean, perfect image. These apps are smart enough to find the edges and make intelligent corrections.
Education Apps

There's always more to learn about genealogy. There are new perspectives, great advice, and step-by-step procedures.

For Ancestry.com subscribers, Ancestry Academy videos are free. Watch them wherever and whenever it's convenient for you. Brush up on the basics of genealogy research, or try out a new method for analyzing your DNA results.

If you don't subscribe to Ancestry, fear not. The Ancestry channel on YouTube is free. It offers tons of inspirational, helpful, and eye-opening content. I enjoy watching videos from Crista Cowan, aka the Barefoot Genealogist. She works for Ancestry, but her focus is on genealogy. So don't ignore their channel if you don't use Ancestry.com.

You'll find YouTube channels for MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, FamilySearch, experts like Amy Johnson Crow, and many more. When you find a channel you like, subscribe to it. It's like putting something in your Favorites list. Now you'll find those videos more easily.

Watching genealogy videos keeps your head in the game when you're on the train, having lunch at your desk, or waiting at the doctor's office.
Genealogy doesn't have to keep you tied to your desk. Take it out into the world and share your family tree.

05 February 2019

3 Rules for Naming Digital Genealogy Documents

These 3 logical rules will add tons of value to your family tree and every document in it.

I'm a natural-born organizer. My strict computer file organization is easiest to see in my thousands of genealogy image files. Thanks to my 3 rules for naming and storing digital genealogy files, I can locate the original copy of any image in my tree in seconds.

It's worked so well, that what happened to me on Sunday was shocking. I was following my rules, but the correct filename was already taken.

It seems I have 18 people in my family tree named Giuseppantonio Pozzuto. Two were born in 1814. When I tried to save an image file as PozzutoGiusappantonioBirth1814.jpg, my computer asked if I wanted to overwrite the existing file. No, I didn't.

To get around the problem, I added Giuseppantonio's father's name to the file name: PozzutoGiuseppantoniodiDonatoBirth1814.jpg. I use "di" as shorthand. In Italian, it tells us Giuseppantonio is the son of Donato.

That's the first time my genealogy file naming rules hit a snag. Ever. That tells me it's a solid method.

Here are the rules:

1. Folder-Naming Format
  • Keep your genealogy files in one top-level folder. I named mine FamilyTree. It's synchronized with OneDrive, and I make a weekly manual backup, too.
  • In your main folder, create a separate folder for each major type of document you'll collect. Name them as simply as possible so you'll never forget what's in each one. For example:
    • census forms
    • certificates (for birth, marriage, and death records)
    • city directories
    • draft cards
    • immigration (for ship manifests)
    • naturalization
    • passports
    • photos
    • yearbooks
  • Make as many folders as you need. Now everything is centralized.
Simple, logical file folder names remove any confusion.
Simple, logical file folder names remove any confusion.

2. Image-Naming Format

Inside each of your folders, follow a consistent, simple format.
  • For census files, the format is LastnameFirstnameYear.jpg, using the name of the head of household. Example: KinneyJames1920.jpg
  • For ship manifests, the format is LastnameFirstnameYear.jpg. But:
    • When there are 2 sheets to a ship manifest, the format is LastnameFirstnameYear-p1.jpg and LastnameFirstnameYear-p2.jpg.
    • When there are 2 people on the manifest, you have a choice. Either duplicate the file, 1 for each person, or double-up the names. Example: BaroneNicolinaPetriellaDomenico1891.jpg.
  • For draft registration cards, the format is LastnameFirstnameWW1.jpg or LastnameFirstnameWW2.jpg. These cards have 2 sides, so they need page numbers. Example: MaleriEnsoWW2-p1.jpg and MaleriEnsoWW2-p2.jpg.
I keep all vital records together in one certificates folder. Because they're together, they need more detail in their file names. Why don't I separate them into birth, marriage, and death folders? I prefer being able to see every vital record for a person in one place. It's a personal preference.

The simple rule for certificates is LastnameFirstnameEventYear.jpg. Double up names for marriages, and use page numbers when needed. Examples:
  • BasileGiovanniBirth1911.jpg
  • BasileGiovanniPillaAssunta1stMarriageBanns1933.jpg
  • BasileGiovanniPillaAssunta2ndMarriageBanns1933.jpg
  • BasileGiovanniPillaAssuntaMarriage1933-p1.jpg
  • BasileGiovanniPillaAssuntaMarriage1933-p2.jpg
  • BasileGiovanniDeath1942.jpg
Having separate folders helps you avoid problems with duplicate file names. I have a census image named IamarinoPietro1930.jpg and a city directory image named IamarinoPietro1930.jpg. But because they're kept in different folders, there is no conflict.

Always follow the same pattern when naming your document image files.
Always follow the same pattern when naming your document image files.

3. Image Comments

You can add important facts to an image file when it's in a folder or in your family tree software. Take the long view. When you return to a file years later, or when someone takes over your genealogy research, these extra facts will be worth a fortune.

In your file folder, right-click an image, choose Properties and click the Details tab. (I'm not a Mac person, so I don't know what your choices will be.) Add a plain-language title and detailed comments. When you import the image into your family tree software, your added facts will come along.

I give my images the exact title I want to see in Family Tree Maker. I lead with the year so the images are listed chronologically. It's a very simple format: Year, type of document, person. Example: "1911 birth record for Giovanni Basile".

You can add a lot to the Comments field of the image's Details tab. I add enough detail so anyone can find the original source of this image. Example: lines 12-15; 1940 United State Federal Census; Connecticut > Fairfield > Bridgeport > 9-97; supervisor's district 4, enumeration district 9-97, ward of city 8, block 421, sheet 12A; image 24 of 33; https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2442/m-t0627-00532-00508

I don't add a date to the image's Details tab because it can't accept the date format I use in my family tree: 5 Feb 2019. Instead, I add the event date to the document image within Family Tree Maker.

These 3 rules have served me well. I hope they'll help you avoid confusion, find files easily, and fortify your family tree.

01 February 2019

One Simple Strategy to Avoid Genealogy Burnout

Does your family tree ever weigh you down? Here's an easy way to push ahead without getting burned out.

I've been off to the races on my 2019 Genealogy Goals. I completed my 1st goal by mid-January. Now I'm making a serious push on my 2nd goal.

I've finished my 1st genealogy goal of the year, but the 2nd one can get tedious.
I've finished my 1st genealogy goal of the year,
but the 2nd one can get tedious.

I'm excited about how many census forms I've added to my family tree in a short time. Fifty-five in 2 weeks!

But sometimes I get bored. I'll find a census for a big family and think, "Now I've got to add all these facts to all these people." I don't want to stop working on my tree. But it can feel like a grind sometimes.

What's a bored genealogist to do?

Try a New Strategy

I've been using an anti-boredom strategy since I was a girl. I still use it when I'm cleaning the house, shoveling snow, or working at my day job.

The secret is this: Jump from small task to small task and trick your brain into thinking you're on to something new.

For example, when I mow the lawn, I tend to shift directions. Carve out a smaller section to cut. I'm purposely not committing myself to an enormous job. I'm committing to one piece of the job at a time. I'm telling myself I can stop whenever I want to. Then I realize I want to do another section. I go on to complete the larger task, one piece at a time.

Why not apply this strategy to genealogy?

I still encourage you to keep a list of genealogy goals—even if you won't complete them this year. But, to battle any boredom, keep a separate, smaller task list. These tasks are the things you can jump to when your bigger goal is bogging you down.

Last night I was getting discouraged with one family because I couldn't find them in 1910 or 1930. I tried all kinds of search tricks, but they kept hiding from me.

That's when I noticed a problem with some of the images in my family tree. They were missing a date or category, or weren't named in my usual style. I'd detached a few unwanted images, but I'd forgotten to delete them.

I overcame my boredom and frustration by fixing the problems with these 30-something images. It was a mental break. A short, easy task. And I'm so happy they're fixed.

I pressed on and edited the captions for all my photos of grave markers. I wanted them to be consistent, and I could never decide if they were tombstones, gravestones, headstones, or what. So I chose "grave marker" and labelled each photo in the same way. I put the cemetery name in the description. If I had the original URL for the image, I made sure each one said "From the Find-a-Grave website" followed by the URL.

Cleaning up a certain file type in my family tree was a quick break to get me back on track.
Cleaning up a certain file type in my family tree was a quick break to get me back on track.

I keep a list of smaller genealogy tasks I want to finish. They're not lofty enough to be on my annual goals list, so I called them my "Rainy-Day Genealogy List". I could call them my "I'm Bored List":
  • Transcribe my Oct 2018 interview of Mom and Dad (should take an hour or so)
  • Sort out my photo collection, scan the non-digitized ones, and add more to my tree (a weekend job)
  • Capture all entries from my old notebook of Ellis Island immigrants (I don't have to do it all at once)
  • Revisit my brother's old genealogy paper for more facts from Grandpa (a couple of hours, tops)
  • File away everything in my catch-all "gen docs" folder (a bigger task, but easy to break into pieces)
It's Time to Start Your List

You must have similar tasks you'd like to complete. Start your list of boredom busters. Choose one as a mental break when you feel frustrated by a brick wall.

Don't avoid genealogy because one family is driving you crazy. Move on to something simpler for a while. Something you can finish with no obstacles.

Break through that boredom while making your end-product better and better. Your family tree is going to be the tidiest family tree in the neighborhood!