Bashing Brick Walls, One Brick at a Time
When I began researching my family history years ago, I thought that locating elusive birth and marriage records would solve my most difficult genealogy puzzles. I was SO WRONG!
As quickly as I confirmed a birthdate, the search turned to finding a marriage, which led to another hunt for the parents of the newlyweds. And, even when I found exactly what I was looking for, I wasn’t always able to confirm a hypothesis or move forward to the next task. I was bogged down in notes, papers, and files. I needed to get organized.
If I wanted to become a more efficient and productive genealogist, I had to become a more organized researcher. Sorting and organizing my inherited family history papers was only the first part of the project; I also needed to shape up my genealogy files and research notes.
I’ve found the single biggest brick wall obstacle isn’t that hard-to-find birth record; it’s often an organizational system (or lack thereof) that keeps us from making full use of that record when we do find it! We can have all the facts at our fingertips, but if we haven’t organized our sources and weighed the validity of the evidence, all we have is a lot of loose information. And, if we can’t find the papers or digital files we need to back up a claim, it’s as though we never found the records at all.
How to Tear Down a Brick Wall
Our organizational brick wall is a lot like the brick wall along my side yard. It isn’t one giant brick. It’s built of individual bricks cemented together to form a strong and sturdy barrier.
My husband is a contractor-builder and I’ve watched him demolish lots of things, including brick walls. He doesn’t start in the middle, bashing one or two bricks held tight by companion bricks and mortar on all four sides. He starts on the top, methodically, carefully, weakening the mortar with hammer and chisel to free the bricks one at a time. After all, those old bricks are valuable. They can be reused in other projects.
“Genealogy bricks” are valuable too. We don’t want to lose the efforts of our research, scanning, and writing.
What bricks make up your organizational brick wall?
- Filing system – notebooks or file folders? or piles of papers?
- Computer filenames – inconsistent filenaming that makes it difficult to find digital files?
- Digital files – misplaced all over your hard drive or USB drives?
- Research plans – hasty logs and incomplete notes scribbled on paper in the heat of a search?
- Source citations – partially recorded source information or photocopies without full documentation?
- Outdated software – at odds with your current operating system or research needs?
- Family photos and documents – scattered, partially scanned, haphazardly stored in shoe boxes or files?
- Inherited keepsakes – stashed in boxes and bins because you aren’t quite sure what to do with them?
I found that by carefully chipping away at individual “genealogy bricks” I could take down my organizational brick wall and move forward toward becoming a more effective family historian. That brick wall wasn’t built in a day and I didn’t have to knock it down in one blow either.
In my new book How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia & Genealogy Records, I share the lessons and tips I learned as I knocked down my organizational wall brick-by-brick. I hope the step-by-step worksheets, charts, and checklists can help you break down your organizational brick walls, too, brick-by-brick to effectively organize, preserve, and share your family history.
Join the Blog Tour
Join the Blog Book Tour for How to Archive Family Keepsakes January 10-26, 2013 for author interviews, book excerpts, giveaways, and more. Visit the Blog Book Tour Page at The Family Curator website for the complete schedule.
Proceeds from the sale of How to Archive Family Keepsakes during the Book Tour will help fund the 2013 Student Genealogy Grant founded in 2010 in honor of Denise’s mother, Suzanne Winsor Freeman.
Blog Book Tour Giveaways
Comment on daily Book Blog Tour Post
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It’s easy to enter to win a free copy of Denise’s new book or one of the weekly giveaway prizes. All you have to do is leave a comment to the Blog Tour Post hosted at one of the official tour blogs. Random winners will also be selected from social media comments on Twitter, FaceBook, and Google+.
Each blog tour post comment gives you one chance to win; one entry per post per day, please. Leave a comment at each stop on the blog tour and increase your chances of winning. The lucky names will be announced each Saturday during the tour at The Family Curator.
About the Author
In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” Denise May Levenick is a writer, researcher, and speaker with a passion for preserving and sharing family treasures of all kinds. She is the creator of the award-winning family history blog, The Family Curator www.TheFamilyCurator.com and author of the new book How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia and Genealogy Records, (Family Tree Books, 2012).