Finding Inspiration, by Juliana Smith

PansiesI’m still not exactly sure how it happened, but it would appear that I am the incoming president of the PTA at my daughter’s school. It kind of snuck up on me, and as the end of the year draws closer, the panic is setting in.  I don’t know how to be president!

With the state PTA convention approaching, I signed on to go and last Friday I left for the weekend event. Prior to my arrival, I was filled with dread. I had way too much to do to be leaving for an entire weekend and since I didn’t know very many people that were going to be there, I was also a bit nervous.

It wasn’t as large as the national genealogy conferences I am used to, but it was similar enough that I felt a bit more at ease as I got into the conference mindset. I planned what seminars I thought would benefit me most and before long I found myself scribbling notes on what I was learning and jotting down ideas that were popping into my head.

Soon, the voice in my head that had been chastising me with laments like “What have I done?” and “How could I have gotten myself into this?” changed its tune.  By the end of the seminars on Saturday, I was actually excited about the prospects of the coming year and the voice was now full of ideas. I even started a blog for our PTA where the officers and faculty can keep in touch and share ideas between meetings and there will soon be another blog for our membership where we will be able to post upcoming events, reminders, and solicit input on the needs of the school community.

It’s surprising how fast our attitudes can change with just a little boost. Inspiration like this can come in many forms, so today I thought I’d explore a few things that tend to inspire me.

Conferences and Society Events
With the National Genealogical Societies’ annual conference in Chicago coming up in (can it be?) less than a month, I will be building momentum to get my research rolling for the summer months. And those of you who can’t make it to Chicago in early June, may have better luck getting to Boston for the Federation of Genealogical Societies in late August/early September.

Don’t overlook the events of local organizations either-even if you don’t have ancestors in the area. Sometimes it just takes being around enthusiastic people with similar interests to get you started.

Nowadays we can use technology to manipulate data into various charts and forms with the click of a mouse. In a matter of minutes, you can use your genealogy software to print family group sheets, pedigree charts, ahnentafels, and any number of other reports. However, sometimes this one-click type of formatting robs us of the perks that come with the manual manipulation of data. Yesterday after I wrote Weekly Planner, I took my own advice and created a new census grid for my Kelly ancestors. (I posted part of it online.) The simple act of reformatting the information I had, gave me some ideas and those blank spaces really got me itching to work to fill them in!

Something as simple as a change of scenery can spur the thought process. When I’m in a rut work-wise or family history-wise, I like to take my laptop off the dock and move into my favorite comfy chair in the living room or out to the back porch. For some reason, not being confined to my desk really does wonders and I feel much more energetic. If you don’t have a laptop, turn to that old standby-a pad of paper and pencil. Jot down notes for follow-up and reorganize data and see what you can come up with.

Read an Article
I have found that the more I read about family history, the more inspired I am to do it. For example, when I read Michael’s article about creating a profile for ancestors you are missing in the 1910 census, I set off compiling a list of ancestors who I was missing.  It was only the deadline for this column that dragged me back. (And you can be sure I’ll be revisiting that list tonight when I’m finished working!) Whether it be a newsletter or the latest Ancestry Magazine, give it a try. If you’re all caught up on current articles, try browsing through the online article archive in the Library.

Do a Good Deed
Nothing is more inspiring and uplifting than helping someone else. Look around for queries posted on message boards or mailing lists in areas where you have expertise. Once you’ve put your skill to work helping someone else out, you’ll be itching to turn that talent back to your own research. Plus you’ll be building up those genealogical karma points!

Ups and Downs
We all go through ups and downs in our family history research, and if you’ve been in a bit of a rut and feeling uninspired, why not give some of these ideas a try. What inspires you? If you have some ideas you’d like to share, please do so on the 24/7 Family History Circle blog at: 

Juliana Smith has been the editor of newsletters for more than seven years and is author of “The Ancestry Family Historian’s Address Book.” She has written for “Ancestry” Magazine and “Genealogical Computing.” Juliana can be reached by e-mail at:, but she regrets that her schedule does not allow her to assist with personal research.

7 thoughts on “Finding Inspiration, by Juliana Smith

  1. Dear Juliana Smith,
    Thank you for the link in this article to the census chart that you created using Excel. Every so often an article mentions creating a chart of some type using Excel (or at least a spreadsheet) and may even include the names of the categories for columns and rows, but I have never seen an actual example of that chart. I appreciate seeing yours!

    Allene Aubertin

  2. Many times I find an entry where someone has information about a name that I am researching. When I E-mail my inquiry to the posted address I find that the address is no longer valid and my inquiry is in vain. This is frustrating and disappointing. I don’t know what can be done about this. Any ideas?

  3. I am getting ready to go to SLC. As I don’t have a lap top and my PDA is on the blink. I have an alternate plan. I created an email account at and am sending my researh film #’s I’m planning to work on and my look ups and PDF files to this account so that when I’m in the library I can go to the email and find any information I’m looking for. I also have my “internet” genealogy ged com on rootsweb so that if I get stuck on a family I can look it up.

  4. Dear Juliana,
    Thank you so much for the sample grid. I’ll be starting mine today. However, I’m dying to know if you can add a PLACE for the Kelly names you used.

  5. Dear Juliana,
    I’ll be starting my grid today. However, I’m dying to know if you can add a PLACE for the Kelly names you used. Thank you.

  6. I’ve started walking my dog every day to get some exercise. One of our routes takes us past one of the largest cemeteries in the county. I’ve decided to start transcribing the cemetery and send it to the GENWEB coordinator for our county when I’m done. It gives me an extra incentive to take those walks, and will hopefully someday help a few genealogists!!

  7. Hi Juliana,
    Thanks for the census grid.
    I am creating one in Excel today!

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