By Nancy Calhoun
Books & More
Many genealogy and history enthusiasts research for the love of it. This may include spending hours at libraries such as Muskogee Public Library, reading books, visiting depositories for original documents, traveling to meaningful sites such as homesteads and battlefields, interviewing family members to obtain additional information for the family tree and to “flesh” it out.
But writing down and thus setting specific goals can lead to more meaningful productivity in the new year. Many set a specific goal of joining a lineage organization, writing a story or book, or pursuing a previously neglected line. Just writing down the steps necessary to reach such a goal can make obtaining them more probable. Think of it as solving a mystery by exploring all the possibilities.
The workshop participants were encouraged to set genealogy goals for the next year during a national conference session I attended.
Although I had intended to “get around” to most of the items in the past, making a list and then jotting down the necessary steps to obtain them “set the ball in motion.”
By the end of the next year I found many of these had become reality or were nearer completion. This included establishing a new patriot for the Daughters of the American Revolution. Along the way, I also joined the United Daughters of the War of 1812 by claiming his son and also establishing him as an 1812 patriot. I also helped other family members with lineage association applications, obtained a Civil War tombstone for a great grandfather and dedicated it, and attended a reunion in South Carolina. Of course, I didn't achieve all the goals but some progress was made. Some just seem to be perpetual goals, along with losing weight and getting in shape.
Breaking down huge tasks into smaller segments frequently results in some progress or sense of organization. National speaker and professional genealogist Mark Lowe recommends using a method of index cards. Every time he encounters something he needs to research at a library or archives, he writes the item on an index card. He then puts it on a ring designated for the specific institution where he should search for that information. The next time he's on his way to visit that institution, he simply takes along the ring of cards and works his way through his “list” while there, rather than trying to remember what he needs.
He also recommends determining what information you need. Then make a list of possible sources to obtain the desired information. I needed a death date for a great great grandfather. I thought I had checked all the usual sources: county deaths, wills and probates, burial records, family Bible, etc. Then I realized while making my list during the session that I had not checked the local church records thinking there would not be information. Why not? Certainly his family were instrumental members of the local church since his son was a founding member of that church, actually donated some of the lumber and he and his sons milled it all, plus various members of the family have been instrumental members for four generations since its founding. It was clear that these could provide valuable information on family members including not only him, but for baptisms, marriages, etc.
Staff members have created check lists for doing research in general, Civil War research and researching females. It's easy to overlook a possible information source and such a list can help with doing a complete search.
Genealogists not only use the “tried and true” and traditional resources, but the most successful ones “think outside the box,” use critical thinking skills, and stretch their brains to locate more unusual sources. We often find people say that they've searched an online database and didn't find the information they needed, so it must not exist. They completely ignore printed sources, original documents, and other sources not found online. While these are valuable resources, they are only the “tip of the iceberg” in doing genealogical research.
So thaw out that iceberg for new layers, set some goals, organize your research quests, and experience genealogical successes in 2014. Muskogee Public Library's genealogy and local history department can provide guidance in its Beginning Genealogy and Beginning Internet Genealogy Classes offered monthly at no charge.
Muskogee County Genealogical Society's monthly meeting can provide inspiration through association with fellow researchers and with educational topics. The Jan. 23 and February 27 meetings will provide webinars on DNA by Drew Smith. They are also conducting a fund raiser for the organization with a Cousin Finder DNA kit as the prize.
Nancy Calhoun is the genealogy and local history director at the Muskogee Public Library. Reach her at (918) 682-6657, ext. 257.