google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html Refocus Your Genealogy for 2018: 10 Steps with Templates | The Armchair Genealogist

Refocus Your Genealogy for 2018: 10 Steps with Templates


The New Year is here, and I love this time of year to take stock and refocus my genealogy research. 

How did you make out in advancing your family history goals in 2017?

Did you fall short?


Maybe, life got in the way, perhaps you became frustrated with too many brick walls, or you found yourself chasing your tail because you didn’t have a research plan. This year, let’s revive and refocus our genealogy research with a strategy that will help you stay focused on getting results.

It’s not enough to have research goals if you don’t have a plan. If you really want to meet with success in 2018, you need to not only identify your research goals but put together a plan for achieving those goals.

Instead of aimlessly researching via surfing the Internet hoping a missing piece of the equation will magically appear let’s create a plan that will get you results and fill in those missing gaps.


Step 1. Identify the gaps in your research. We can’t identify a plan if we don’t know the goal. We need to determine precisely what it is we are looking for in our research. The best way to do this is a combination of a pedigree chart, group sheets, and a timeline. Pedigree charts will help you identify missing lines and ancestors. Group sheets will help you to identify missing information about family members while timelines can help you get very specific about what is missing in the timeline of an ancestor’s life. Timelines are an incredibly useful tool for helping to see the big picture of an ancestor’s life and to help you identify those missing gaps. A timeline can help you to re-frame your information to help you to see your research from a different perspective.

Step 2. Create a Master Research List –  Create a list of ancestors you wish to focus on for 2018. I would keep the list to about 7-10 ancestors. Researching too many ancestors at one time only ends in frustration, not giving quality time to anyone. Download your Master Research list

Step 3. Set up Quarterly Goals – If your research list is long, it can become quite overwhelming. Most times we tend to jump around in our research and not stay focused on a line or ancestor. We don’t want to research all top 10 ancestors at once. Let’s break down your 2018 goals into quarterly goals, identifying about 3 ancestors that you plan to work on in the first quarter of 2018.

Step 4. Re-Organize – Re-organize your research files for the 2-3 ancestors you identified for the first quarter of 2018. Perhaps invest in a new software program and organize your family history files into that new software program. The process of organizing your records can help to clear the chaos and refocus your research. It is also is a great time to take another look. I created what I like to call The Gap Sheet. It identifies the missing pieces. Fill one out for each ancestor from each ancestor on your master list. 

Step 5. Take Another Look – It continues to amaze me how taking a second or third look at a document can suddenly reveal new information you never saw as relevant before. Don’t be naive in thinking that you have grasped everything possible from a record. Take another look at the documents for your 2-3 ancestors that you are focused on in your first quarter of 2018.

Step 6. Create an Original Records List – How many documents in your research are original? How much of your information is being derived from transcriptions or abstracts? You may not be getting the full story if you are relying on abstracts or transcriptions. Make a list of missing originals and make 2018 the year you seek them out. It might just help you open some new doors in your research. At the very least, the original will confirm your current findings. (stay tuned for a more in-depth post)

Step 7. Research Collateral Lines – Collateral lines means spending some time researching your ancestor’s siblings. Looking to the siblings of the ancestor in question may unveil family information in their records that are not available in your ancestor’s records. Perhaps revealing some new information. (stay tuned for a more in-depth post)

Step 8. Expand Your Knowledge – Brickwalls can sometimes be the result of a lack of knowledge about a specific research area. You may lack information about record sets available and where they are held or how to read them. You might not have an understanding of a culture or geography of an area that may affect the creation of individual records. Attend a conference, take a genealogy class at your local archives or hop online and attend a webinar that features a topic specific to that ancestor. Expand your knowledge of records, resources, and history of an ancestor’s place and time, and you’ll start to tear down that brick wall.

Step 9. DNA Testing. Reach out to descendants of an ancestor and see if they will take a DNA test. DNA testing is a great way to prove or disapprove family lines where no records may exist. Consider joining or starting a DNA Surname Study, to help take your research to the next level.

Step 10. Take a Field Trip - If you only research online from your armchair, you’re missing out. Perhaps it’s time to take a trip to an ancestral hometown; it’s the perfect way to revive your research. Sometimes, a simple field trip and a change of environment are all that’s needed to rejuvenate and refocus your research.

Repeat Steps 3-10.  Each quarter, choose three ancestors from your master list. Keep the 4th spot open for one ancestor from the previous quarter that may be proving fruitful, and you’re not prepared to move on from yet.

Follow this pattern for the year,  and by the end of 2018, you’ll have covered 7-10 ancestors with a clear and focused approach.









1 comment:

Donna B. said...

Thanks for these tips! I've "aimlessly" gathered a lot of material over the years but I need to re-organize it. Nor have I developed a specific "plan". With these concise steps I'm hoping to work towards a more organized approach to writing about the family this year.