06 February 2024

5 Cleanup Projects to Fortify Your Family Tree

A weird thing happened when I finished a massive genealogy project. I felt lost! I didn't know how I wanted to spend my genealogy time, so I bounced around from task to task.

Then I found a cleanup project in my to-do list that kept me productive and happy. I may dive into another big project, but until then, here are 5 cleanup projects to fortify your family tree.

Have a little time to spend on your family tree? Choose a task with big impact.
Have a little time to spend on your family tree? Choose a task with big impact.

1. Chase Down Exact Dates

I'm sure you have people in your family tree who are missing an exact birth date, marriage date, or death date. Use one of the two methods described in "2 Ways to Find the Loose Ends in Your Family Tree" to locate fuzzy dates. Then take the time to seek out as many exact dates as possible. It may be that you forgot to follow through and get those dates in the past.

2. Follow Through on Family Tree Leads

You may have a ton of genealogy papers on your desk in a to-do pile. Or a box full of old photos in the closet. Or a computer folder full of all sorts of family tree items waiting for your attention.

We put off dealing with items like these because they seem overwhelming. Don't you agree? But what if you break the process into manageable chunks that won't take a ton of time? When cleaning out a closet, they tell you to separate everything into 3 piles: keep, donate, throw away.

Why not apply that mentality to your genealogy leads? Start by organizing them into:

  • Items that need more research. (Keep, and act on them.)
  • Items that you thought were important but turned out not to fit in your tree. (Throw away.)
  • Items that should go in your family tree right now. (Put them where they belong!)

For the inspiration you need to make this happen, read "How Many Genealogy Gems Are You Sitting On?"

3. Categorize All Your Genealogy Correspondence

I've been using Microsoft Outlook for email for at least 20 years. When I move to a new computer, I bring my massive Outlook file along—with all the old emails I'd decided to keep.

But my Outlook file is too fat, so I've been reviewing very old emails and deleting lots of them. I realized this is a good time to cut a lot of old genealogy-related messages by moving the facts to a spreadsheet. We don't need to keep every word of a conversation. Find out how to make the most of your correspondence by reading "How to Make Your Own Genealogy Correspondence Database."

4. Get Those Source Citations Done!

An awful mishap with my Family Tree Maker file led me to fix every source citation in my family tree. It was a huge task, but I'm so happy with the results. Now I'm careful to create a solid source citation for each fact or image as I put them into my family tree.

Once you've cleaned up your backlog, you'll be eager to do everything the right way going forward. Here's a detailed look at how to tackle your backlog and create "Step-by-Step Source Citations for Your Family Tree."

5. Cut the Fat Out of Downloaded Images

For the last few days I've been enjoying a cleanup project that's reducing the size of my Family Tree Maker file. I'm cropping the big black borders out of the census images I've downloaded from Ancestry. And while I'm at it, I'm reducing the size of the image from up to 6,000 pixels wide to a standard of either 50% of the original width or 2,000 pixels wide. (Do a test first to make sure the standard size you choose doesn't lose too much clarity.) The file sizes get smaller, and my tree becomes more manageable. Too see my process, read "How to Improve Your Digital Genealogy Documents."

Once I finish the census files I'll tackle the ship manifests. I love this project—I just couldn't seem to make enough time for it in the past.

Think of these cleanup tasks as a way to always be productive and keep from getting bored. Go on now and improve your family tree.

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