google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html The Armchair Genealogist

Family History Writing Challenge 2017

The Family History Writing Challenge 

 It starts with 28 days and 28 minutes
Feb 1st – Feb 28th

Do You Need The Challenge? 

  Do you have a desire to turn your ancestor’s dry documents into exciting stories? 

 Have you procrastinated for far too long?

 Do you want to start but not sure how?

 Have you been writing sporadically never finishing a story?

 Have you procrastinated writing your stories, not sure where to begin? 

 Do you need some polishing those stories making them more interesting, less of a yawn. 

 Are you overwhelmed and need some support in getting started?

If you checked any of the above questions then you have come to the right place.

It’s time to take up the challenge, commit pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and assemble those family facts into an entertaining and educational family history story. 
The challenge is designed to help you develop long-term writing habits, provide inspiration and offer some educational pointers in your journey to write your family history stories. It’s time to set the excuses aside and make 2017 the year you meet your family history writing goals head on. 

Whom Do I Write About? 

A single ancestor, a surname, a branch of your tree, you pick. ** Hint, it’s always best to start small, begin with a single ancestor and a small timeframe or event in their life. 

You select the ancestor or ancestors, the timeframe, keeping in mind who you feel most prepared to write about in terms of research and interest, and who are you most motivated to write about. Write your stories in the form of family history blog posts, a family history memoir, or narrative stories for a legacy book or as a personal journal. 

How Much Do I Need to Write? 

You pick the amount 250, 500, 1000 words a day whatever you can work into your schedule. Do the math. 

250 words x 28 days = 7000 words, you would be well on your way! 
500 words x 28 days = 14,000 words, this would be an incredible start! 
1000 words x 28 days = 28,000 words, you would be a hero! 

Learn to carve out time to write on a daily basis! Each day I will ask you to sit down and write for a certain length of time. We start with 28 minutes. At the end of our 28 days together you will be writing for 90 minutes a day. Think of how much you can accomplish in that time. Don’t worry we will help you carve out that time and help you make writing a priority in your life.

Where Do I Write? 

Write on your computer, iPad, typewriter, longhand (tough to do a word count). Write in your office, at the kitchen table, the local coffee shop, the lawn chair (if you’re someplace sunny- lucky you), or beside a roaring fire (that would be me). Find a place to call your own.

What If My Writing Isn't Good Enough?  

Very few of us can sit down and shoot out a masterpiece on the first draft. Newsbreak….. most of us take a half dozen passes at it before it is worthy of anyone’s eyes. This is about making a start, it’s about creating a habit. There will be plenty of time to edit your stories later, committing to the daily word count and set amount of time each day is a huge step to making it happen. 

When Does the Challenge Begin? 

The Family History Writing Challenge begins Feb 1st and ends February 28th. You commit 28 days to writing your family history, in the hopes that you will get a running start and you’ll never look back. You’ll create daily writing habits that I hope will stay with you long after the challenge is over. When you join in January, and take some time to get ready to write, we've got four pre-challenge posts for you to help you get organized. 

Where Do I Sign Up? 

Register right here, if you’re a blogger feel free to announce your intentions and goal on your own blog.  No goal is official until you have written it down and shared it. If you prefer to keep it to yourself that’s ok too. I realize some of you are shy, writers by nature are introverts, we appreciate that here. You don’t need to share your writing unless that’s your desire. You can sit quietly back and take all the information in, but of course, if you participate we will be thrilled.  Do can participate on our Facebook page. 

Once you register for the Family History Writing Challenge you not only have access to all our article archives in writer’s resources but you’ll receive our Daily Dose Newsletter.  Each day you’ll receive a motivational message from me, along with a few tips and an informative post and delivered right to your inbox. By registering, you’ll be sure not to miss a thing. 

Why Do I Need the Challenge?

There’s nothing better than having the support and knowledge of a vast community to help you overcome your struggles. We share our wealth of knowledge to help elevate everyone in their journey. Whether it is in our article archives, our daily dose newsletter or through the Facebook Group you have an opportunity to be motivated, educated and inspired at every turn. Utilize these three resources in whatever combination you prefer. 

 What Is Stopping You From Starting?

Let me know, and I will try to help you overcome those obstacles.

Drop me an email at I’ll do my best to address your questions throughout our 28 days of the Daily Dose. 

If you’re still not convinced,  a few of previous year’s participants were kind enough to share their thoughts on the challenge. 

“If you’ve ever thought that you might like to write your family history into a book, but didn’t know where to begin…or if you’ve begun, but need some more assistance from a support group…then The Family History Writing Challenge is where you need to be in February! You will find expert guidance and support from our leader, Lynn Palermo (aka The Armchair Genealogist) and her guest bloggers, as well as a cheering section at the Forum. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and sign up for a great adventure in family history writing! Even if you don’t finish the whole book in 28 days (I didn’t), you’ll get a great start and meet some really swell people along the way!”

“Lynn, you did an amazing job of leading this challenge, encouraging and motivating so many people to take on the sometimes daunting task of figuring out how to take those first steps toward writing. I’ve really been impressed with the organization and diligence it took to put together those daily reminders and mini lessons. I have no doubt many have come out of February into March feeling that writing a family history is within their reach. I read several hundred pages of recently discovered diaries and incorporated parts of their content into several thousand words and got several chapters written or re-written. Thanks so much for your hard work and unfailing enthusiasm for everyone.”

Linda Gartz
Family Archaeologist
“Hi Lynn, I’m very excited about this last month and the progress I have made with my writing.  I have learned so many things that I had never heard of nor had any idea about, that has helped me.  Thanks, Thanks, Thanks,  I plan to keep on writing and letting people know about your blog. I don’t want February to end. Thanks again.”

28 Days. 28 Minutes.
Are you ready to take the challenge?
The Family History Writing Challenge

How to Implement Your New Genealogy Goal

I’m going to bet you have one or two new genealogy goals for 2017.  With new goals come new habits. Often to achieve our new goals requires us to change or implement new practices into our daily routine. Maybe you are determined to keep a better research log or start one. Maybe you’re going to organize your research, perhaps you’re going to start writing your family history stories, or you’ve committed to a better routine of scanning and filing your research or catching up on the backlog of scanning that is waiting for you. Perhaps you’re a family history blogger determined to blog on a more regular basis. Also, many programs are happening in the genealogy world that you might like to participate in. Things like,
They all require you finding some time in your already busy life to fit in these new activities. They are all great initiatives with so many positive rewards. But putting them in place and sticking to them can be a task.
Regardless of the new 2017 goal, you have professed to, chances are you’re going to need some help to make it happen. New habits are hard. Saying it just doesn’t make it so.
I’ve come up with a list of tips to help you make your new habits happen.
1. Write it Down – This is the biggest and most important step. Write down what you want your new habit or goal to be. Hang it in multiple places where you will see it often, on the fridge, the bathroom mirror, beside your computer.  Writing down your new goal or habit will help make it clear and more focused and top of mind.  
2. Commit to Thirty Days – The experts tell us it takes about 3-4 weeks to make a new practice part of your regular routine. If you can make it through the initial phase, it becomes easier to sustain after that. A month is a good amount of time to commit to a change since it easily fits in your calendar. That’s why we use the month of February to develop our writing habits in the Family History Writing Challenge.

 Make it Daily – Consistency is important if you want to make a habit stick. If you want to start scanning, or updating your research notes, or writing it’s important to make it a regular practice. Giving yourself a designated time each day to help form the habit. Activities that you only do once every couple of weeks become tough to lock in as habits and they may take a little longer to take hold.  
4. Don’t Do It All at Once – Don’t try to execute a dozen new genealogy habits in your life in one day. Don’t take on too much. Start with one new habit, get it in place and working for you before you add another. Dedicate each month of 2017 to implementing a new practice into your life. If you want to re-organize your research notes, start their, 30 minutes a day. When that habit is locked in place, then move on to adding a routine of scanning to your habits. It is easy to get over-motivated at the beginning of a new year and take on too much.
5. Schedule It –Add your new habit to your calendar each day. This signals you that this is a priority in your life. It should sit in your calendar alongside that dentist appointment and the lunch date with your friend. If you don’t make it important enough to earn a place on your calendar, it becomes very easy to dismiss. 
6.  Be Consistent – The more consistent you can be with your habit the easier it will be to accomplish. If you want to start writing, try sitting down at the same time in the same location for your thirty days. The time of day, the place and environment around you can become cues signalling your mind that it is time.
7. Find a Friend – Find someone who will help you in motivating this new habit and keep you going when you feel like quitting or find something better or more exciting to do with that time, a writing buddy or scanning partner who has your back when you feeling like giving up.  
8. Find a Trigger – A trigger is a ritual you use right before executing your habit. Pouring yourself a favourite coffee or tea and sitting down with a favourite pen, a beautiful journal could be the trigger you need to update your research log.
9. Eliminate the Time Wasters – Eliminate those mindless and pointless activities in your life to make room for your new habit. No excuses “I don’t have time.” There is plenty of time for new habits. Television, social media, surfing the net, can all free up a significant amount of time.
10. Try and Try Again – If changing your habits doesn’t work the first time don’t give up. It is not uncommon for it to take several attempts to put a new habit in place. Keep trying. You’ll get there.
11. Visualize the Outcome– Visualize what your research will look like when your pictures and documents are all scanned and neatly organized.  Imagine your beautiful research log, a collection of written stories beautifully printed and ready to share with your family. See it, envision it, create a visualization board, keep it front and centre and you will make it happen.
It's not enough to have a goal. You also must have realistic habits that help you to reach your goals. 
There you have it, productivity, goal setting and habit tips to help you make 2017 an epic research year. 

Goal Planning for an Epic Research Year

(Part 2, in our 3-Part Series Making 2017 an Epic Research Year)  Read Part 1 Here

We’ve come up with 7 steps to help you achieve your goals in 2017. But not just your research goals. While you can certainly use the following steps to assist you in outlining only your research goals for 2017, I would encourage you to review all of your life goals at the same time. Life is about balance. And if you are not allowing time in your schedule for yourself, work and your hobbies then chances are you won’t be successful with your genealogy research. In fact, I’ve spent the last week working on a little exercise to determine my ‘word’ for 2017. It’s shaping up to be 'Balance'.  After doing a little review of last year, I’ve come to realize that my life was out of balance. I was dedicating a lot of time to helping others write,  don’t get me wrong I love it, and find great reward in it.  But, I wasn’t dedicating any time to my own personal writing or researching for that matter, or proper exercise or eating healthy. That was really hit and miss. So this year, with ‘balance’ as my keyword, I’m going to work on making sure I exercise every day in some format, scheduling research time and personal writing on my calendar.  Here are the steps I’m taking to make it happen.

Grab yourself a simple notebook, and let’s begin.

 1. Take Inventory
First up, we need to take an inventory of what we’ve accomplished in 2016.  What were you most proud of? What were some of your high points? But also consider some of those low points that you don’t wish to repeat in 2017.  Accomplishments? What things do you not want to be repeated?  What do you want to do more of? Did fear hold you back from completing a goal in 2016? Do you have any unfinished goals from 2016 that you need to carry over? Do you have any unfinished goals you are prepared to let go of, they no longer align with your direction?

 2. List Areas for Goals
Next, list the areas in your life where you want results. Clearly, genealogy research is a big area for us. And if that is all you want to address in this exercise that is fine. But like I said above, balance is essential, if one area of your life is off, it will most likely throw all areas of your life off.  So don’t be afraid to list as many areas in your life that you want to set some new goals for.
Here a few areas you can include, genealogy research, blogging, writing, health, relationships, me time, career, business. These are just a few, do have any others we could add to this list?

3. List Your Goals for Each Area
Now it’s time to think out some big epic goals for each of these areas. Of course, your goals don’t have to be massive, but hey, let’s push ourselves, reach out of our comfort zone. (In case you missed that lesson on Monday.)

4. Choose SMART Goals
Make sure your goals are smart; specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and with targets.  For example, let’s suppose you want to set a goal to find your 3rd Great – Irish grandfather’s birth certificate. Not a realistic goal.  Because you can’t control the outcome.  But, what you can control is that you will exhaust all resources in searching for this birth certificate.  You can create a list of archives to write letters to,  sign up for a database like FindMyPast, take a class in Irish Genealogy or perhaps plan a trip to Ireland. It’s similar to making a goal to lose 10 pounds. You can’t really control how much weight you lose, but you can change what and how much you eat, how much exercise you’ll engage in and then just maybe that last 10 lbs will fall off. But you know even if it doesn’t, and it only ends up being 8 lbs, you know you’ve done your best, and you are healthier. The same can be said for your research goals. You may not find that birth certificate, but you know you've left no stone unturned and you'll be wiser for the experience. Be very specific about your goals. 

5. Create small manageable steps
Now that you have identified your goals it’s time to take each goal and divide into small manageable steps. Create 3 to 5 smaller steps for each goal. The size of the goal will indicate how many steps are required. Some will need more, others less.

6. Find your support team
Next, you need to identify the people in your life who are going to help you achieve your goals. For each goal, choose one person you could lean on for a little help. That one person should have some experience or expertise on that topic. Try to attach one name to each goal. Don’t forget to ask them to be your go-to person and identify exactly what kind of support you are looking for. Is it a weekly Skype chat, an email check-in once a week, an archive partner or someone to read your family history stories and give you feedback. Make it clear to them what that support looks like for you.

7. Schedule in Your Calendar
Every goal we attempt will take time in our lives. If you don’t put those goals on the calendar and make them a priority in your life, they just won’t happen. I preach this all the time to my family history writers.  When we physically place our goals on the calendar, we give them importance. Also,  we can see if were taking on way too much.  This then results in not having enough time to reach your goals and disappointment ensues. But, when we put them on the calendar, we can be realistic about what we have time for, eliminating the possibility of overshooting our goals and ending up frustrated.

I’ve been sharing this Ted Talk in my social media outlets, so, I will share it here. I think it will resonate.

Now, you have all seven steps, from taking your inventory to scheduling your small manageable steps into your calendar.  This week, each day, tackle one of the steps above. This gives you time between each step to ponder those goals and make good choices. Dedicate 15-30 minutes each day to complete each step.  It won’t overwhelm your calendar. Don’t you hate it when you don’t even have time in your day to set some new goals? If this is you, then you really need to step back and reassess your 2017. By the end of 7 days, you’ll have sound, realistic, and measurable goals on your calendar.  And you’ll be ready for an Epic 2017.

 I’m giving you the weekend to work on those goals. And on Tuesday, we’ll look at habits. Because let’s be real, writing down a goal doesn’t make it happen.  The magic happens when you put new habits in place to achieve those goals. 

Feel free to share your goals in the comment section below. 

Challenge Your Beliefs

We all have beliefs. Some of those beliefs thrust us onwards and upwards towards our genealogy goals. And some of those beliefs hold us back, limit us.

It’s those limiting beliefs that we need to be concerned about. They come to us in the form of explanations or excuses for why you believe something is not possible. Your limiting beliefs sit on your shoulder, like a little red devil with that sharp pitchfork stabbing self-doubt into every thought you have, into those beliefs.

One limiting belief that I find many family historians experience is the ability to write their family history stories.

Do these limiting beliefs look familiar?

I don’t know how to write?
No one is interested in my ancestor’s stories.
It’s too hard to write.
I’ll never get it finished.
I’m not talented enough.
I don’t have the time. I’m too busy.
I’m not done researching my family history.
These are just a few of the limiting beliefs I hear every day from family historians.

How to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs

1. Listen
Listen to those voices in your head, or that guy on your shoulder. What is he saying? What are your limiting beliefs saying? Once you can identify those limiting beliefs, understand that they are nothing more than excuses holding you back.  You can then begin to change them. And, it’s not as hard as it sounds.

2.  Make a list of your limiting beliefs. – they might look something like the list above.

3.  Create a list of new beliefs

For example: 

  • I am good enough to write my ancestor’s stories
  • I can learn and develop the skills needed write my ancestor’s stories.
  • I am worthy of the time needed to write my ancestor’s stories.
  • I will make writing my ancestor’s stories a priority in my life.
  •  I deserve the time to write these stories, for myself and future generations.

 4. Make a list of what you need to do to make your new belief a reality.
For example:

                     Schedule time in my calendar
                     Take some writing classes
                     Start writing every day
                     Get feedback on my writing

  5. Make your new beliefs your mantra.
  • Write it on sticky notes and place them in your writing place.
  • Make it your screensaver.
  • Repeat it to yourself when you go through your morning routine
  • Say it to yourself before you drift off to sleep at night.
  • Decide that you are good enough, you deserve it, and you can do it.
  • Put it out into the universe.
  • Then do it.
  • Write Your Family History 

The Family History Writing Challenge returns for its 6th Year!!

Join us for the month of February and take hold of those limiting beliefs and cast them aside.

February 1st – February 28th
It starts with 28 Days. 28 Minutes.

Registration is now Open, Click Here for More Details.

8 Tips to Being a More Productive Genealogist in 2017

Making 2017 an Epic Research Year

Happy New Year! 

I don't know about you but my new year always starts with some reflection and some planning for the year ahead. I'm all about goal planning and trying to improve myself each and every year as both a genealogist and as a writer. So, we are starting the first week of 2017 with a three-part blog post series, Making 2017 an Epic Research Year!  

We are going to look at three areas to help you have your most epic research year; productivity, goals and habits. Spending a little time up front, thinking about each of these will help you to put into place a plan for your epic research year. 

Today is blog post 1, and we will look at some tips for becoming a more productive genealogist. Watch for post 2 in a few days, it will be all about setting yourself new research goals. And in post 3, we will look at how to create and sustain new habits that will help you to reach your 2017 goals.  

So. Let's get started with becoming more productive genealogists in 2017 with the following 8 tips. 

1. Push your comfort zone. 

Want to do bigger and better things in 2017, then you push yourself outside of your comfort zone. This just means trying new things and expanding your knowledge. To grow as a genealogist, we all need to do this on a regular basis. 

It’s called a comfort zone for a reason. We are comfortable, not taking risks when we are in this state. When it comes to your genealogy research do you ever feel like you are a hamster on a wheel going round and round? Perhaps you need to take a class, go to conference, visit an archives, travel to an ancestral hometown, write their stories. Shake it up, and step out of your comfort zone it just might take your research to new levels. 

2. Learn first. 

At every step of the way in our genealogy journey, we must learn. Productive genealogists continue to learn, to expand their knowledge of all things genealogy. Everything from genealogy research methods to organizational methods, to finding out more about records and databases. We seek out knowledge about our ancestor’s lives, social history and their local, regional and world history of the time. All of these things will help to move your research forward in a more productive manner. Never stop learning. If we stop learning, then the only thing we can do is settle with what we already know.

3. Ask for advice. 

Asking for help is not always easy. Many of us are intimidated when it comes to asking others for advice.  We feel insecure, so we decide not to seek help and try to figure it out ourselves. But this can be limiting. There is most likely someone out there who has a fair amount of knowledge about the information we are seeking. Not reaching out and asking for their assistance might be a big missed opportunity.  Seek out knowledgeable people in archives, libraries, Facebook groups, genealogy bloggers, and professional genealogists. They are all ready and eager to offer you guidance. You just have to ask. 

4. Don’t lose sight of the big picture.

While the details in family history are important, we shouldn't lose sight of the big picture. Often I see genealogists spending an immense amount of time looking for a single document, a date, their research is at a stall until they can fill in that small detail. They lose site of the big picture. What does it all mean?  Why do we invest so much time in researching our ancestors?  Don’t spend years chasing one small detail of an ancestor’s life and miss the opportunity to share the masses of stories you have acquired with your family. You know the old saying "can't see the forest for the trees," well this is what happens for many.  They don't move forward with their research or sharing their research because of a few small details they haven't been able to find. While the details are important, don’t lose sight of the big picture – to bring your research, your ancestor’s stories to your family so that they too can get to know and learn from their ancestors. 

5. Don’t multitask.

Multitasking is overrated. Spreading yourself too thin over multiple family lines and ancestors can end up getting you nowhere. Multitasking is known to actually decrease productivity. Those who are successful focus on one particular task and do that task to the best of their ability without interruption. When I focused on my father’s lines,  I was able to make great inroads in my research,  I was able to fill in many missing pieces and eventually complete a family history book. 

When you multitask, you limit your ability to fully focus on one specific task at a time. Successful people utilize the talents and skills that they have by focusing on one task and one task only. 
Don’t try to juggle too many lines and ancestors at once. It often leads nowhere. 

6. Accept the Unanswerable.

It’s important to accept that some of your research questions will go unanswered. Wasting time chasing a detail that is most likely never going to reveal itself is not productive. Shelve it. Move on. Stop lying to yourself that the answer is out there. Accept that not all your questions will be answered.  Proceed to the ones you can answer. You can always circle back at a later date. But in the meantime, if you stay focused on an unanswerable question, you're losing valuable time, and you're not being the most productive genealogist. 

7. Don’t Let Mistakes Hold You Back. 

The past is something that we will never change, nor should we want to change it.  Without the past, we would not have learned the lessons we needed to learn. The mistakes are important. 
We’ve all made errors in our genealogy journey, from poor organization, not recording a source, adding the wrong person to our tree, not finding sources to prove a relationship, the list goes on. We’ve all done it. Don’t let those mistakes hold you back. Learn from them, correct them and move forward. 

8. Ditch the Negative People.

Don’t hang around with people who don’t support your passion. There are people out there that might be dismissive of your genealogy passion. Perhaps, they believe it has no bearing on today’s world. That it is boring and irrelevant stuff. 
It’s important to love what you do and have passion for it. It’s hard to do that when you are surrounded by negative people. So if you wish to be successful, don’t focus on the negativity that others bring.

To be a successful genealogist requires focus, determination, a willingness to learn and seek out advice. Keep these eight tips in mind in 2017, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a more productive genealogist and making 2017 an epic research year.