Sunday, November 17, 2013
Rinse & Repeat
One of the things I really like to do is to organize—really. As a kid, I had hundreds of books, all organized on shelves alphabetically by author. My records (yes, those vinyl ones) were also filed alphabetically. My husband laughs at me because even today, my spice rack is alphabetically arranged. Organizing things is just part of who I am and gives me great pleasure.
So you would think organizing my genealogy would come naturally. Unfortunately my need to organize is a bit too compulsive. I find a system, then read about another system I think I might like better. So I re-organize my system and in between, my paper piles continue to grow. The advent of the computer and the internet should have made my life easier. Hah! Not for a compulsive organizer like me.
For a long time I used both computer software and a color-based paper file and binder system. Being old school, I tended to trust my paper files more than my computer ones. I could find my paper files; I forgot where I put the digital ones. But as I’m becoming more computer savvy, I really like the idea of going completely digital. I have developed a system of labeling my digital photos and scanned documents and filing them by surname on my computer. Then I learned that best practice means I should have a citation on every document and photo—which I don’t.
At the same time, I realized I was working too hard to make my natural organizational style fit with my current software. I found a program which uses Sourcewriter, a built-in tool that helps cite my sources properly and the way citation goddess, Elizabeth Shown Mills in Evidence Explained suggests. This appeals to my inner organizational bone and I have now transferred my research from one software system to the new one. I am currently going through my direct-line families first (followed by collateral and off-shoot families) and cleaning up my citations and adding my digital files. I’m taking the time to go back and add citations to those un-cited digital photos and documents as I come to them.
Some might say I’m stuck in the rinse-and-repeat cycle, but I’m improving my process all the time. I think the biggest perk in doing it this way is that while I am again going through my data, I am seeing it with new eyes and making new discoveries in my old data.
Now, I not only collect data, but I analyze it before adding it to my tree. Keeping Evidence Explained by my side helps with proper citation technique, but also reminds me that I need to think through each piece of information, not just for additional clues, but for the reliability of the source.
So while I am seemingly in an endless data-entry cycle, not only am I learning new things along the way, I’m also refining my research technique. And this continues to appeal to my inner organizational nature…and probably why I will continue to work genealogy in this way.