Juliana’s Family History Resolutions, by Juliana Smith

journal.jpgWell, it seems like once again I blinked and Christmas came and went. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly that long awaited day comes and goes each year. We did have a very nice holiday though and after the “interesting” preceding weeks which included a dog with pneumonia, a week-long stint at my daughter’s school’s Santa Shop, and a lot of last minute shopping, I am looking forward to a little down time.

As I walked back into my office, it struck me that I would be preparing the first newsletter of the year, with the delivery date conveniently falling on New Year’s Day. Looking around the office, it was clear that several of my New Year’s resolutions this year would involve a much needed clean up and organization stint. (Yes, the filing got away from me again.)

With plenty of tasks calling for my attention, I decided that this would be the perfect time to put my family history resolutions down on paper. With a couple hundred thousand of you out there to witness them, maybe I’ll be able to follow through this year! And perhaps, there are one or two that you’d like to add to your list of resolutions.

Resolve to Overhaul the Office Space
Take a look around. Is there an aspect of your office space that is not working for you? Are your files too full and is the overflow contributing to growing piles in your workspace? Look at the problem areas and get to the root of the problem. If your files are too full, split them off into smaller ones. If one family binder is too full, break it into several binders organized by generation or individual family. If your space is limited, look for storage solutions that will best utilize the space you have.

Resolve to Back Up Your Family History Regularly
This week, my computer started acting up and it gave me a brief scare as I realized it had been months since I last backed up my family history files. That was enough to get me going, but I may not get that chance if I wait again. Viruses, computer crashes, and other disasters happen without warning. This year I resolve to stick to my back up schedule, no matter how busy I get.

Resolve to Review Recent Generations.
As we progress back in time with our research to our second and third great-grandparents and beyond, we may tend to overlook more recent ancestors, despite the fact that new resources have become more readily available. For example, the other day a reader commented that she was having trouble accessing the WWI Draft Registration records at Ancestry. To check and see if there was a problem with that database, I entered my maiden name of Szucs to see if I could see results. As I did, it occurred to me that I had never looked for my great-grandfather in this database. I had assumed he was too old, but once I did the math, I realized he would likely be included in the third registration.

My grandfather had been born in Jefferson County, Ohio in 1906, and I knew that John Sr. ran the company store for a mining company and that several family members worked in the mines. I had found the family in both the 1910 and 1920 census in Cleveland though and assumed that they had moved there between 1906 and 1910. The 1918 WWI Registration held a surprise in that John had reported his residence as Barton, Belmont County, Ohio. Clearly, he had gone back to the mining business sometime after 1910 and then moved back to Ohio before 1920. I’ve double checked and am certain that both census entries are his, and the information on the WWI registration matches up, right down to his birth date. Now I have a new location to search and I’m hoping to find other family members in the area, that I had been previously unable to locate.

Resolve to Keep Contact with Family
When I found the above mentioned record, instead of filing it away, I immediately sent it on to my dad and my aunt. Although they have some interest in family history, I’ve found it sometimes takes something like this to get them talking about it. I’m hoping that it will open up some correspondence on the subject and possibly stir up a memory that holds a clue for me. If you have family members that you have a tough time getting information from, send them a record or two and then follow up with a phone call. Not only is it a great way to keep in touch and generate conversation about family history, but you’ll also be helping to ensure its preservation by dissemination.

Resolve to Schedule in Time for Family History
We schedule in time for work obligations, school, chores, family fun, and so many other aspects of our lives, why not do the same for family history? Pick a time that’s typically convenient for you and set aside an hour a week, or if possible several times a week. Even a half hour, several times a week can add up. If you can manage to get in three hours a week, you’ll have logged over 150 hours of research time by next year, and that could represent substantial progress.

Resolve to Journal
At Christmas, my mother started a game where we were supposed to jot down a memory and share it with the family. I drew a blank. So much has happened this year, but it was tough to pin down one memory. How hard will it be years from now? If you don’t already journal your family’s current events, make your start now. Years from now, you and future generations will be glad you did.

Resolve to Follow Up on Resolutions
Write out your list of resolutions and remind yourself of them periodically. Challenge yourself to renew them periodically throughout 2007 by setting reminders on your computer calendar that include your list. As they pop up, if you’ve been sticking to them, you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment. If you don’t do too well, when the reminder comes up, don’t be discouraged. Review them and make adjustments if necessary to ensure success before the next reminder pops up.

Resolve to Be Thankful
As the old year comes to a close and the New Year begins, it’s also a time to reflect on our many blessings. I am thankful for my ancestors for the brave decisions and the sacrifices they made that made my life possible. I am thankful for my parents for the inspiration, guidance, and love they have given me throughout my life. I am thankful for my husband and daughter for the love and joy they bring me, the patience they have for my genealogical pursuits–and the late dinners that are often as a result of those pursuits!

I’m also thankful for you, my Ancestry Weekly Journal family, all of the contributing columnists, the Ancestry editorial team, and everyone at Ancestry who has helped keep this newsletter going for the past eight years. It’s been a long year–at times frustrating and at times filled with “happy dances.” Through it all, I’ve heard from many of you and continue to learn from your comments, Quick Tips, experiences, and suggestions. Thanks to all of you and I wish you and yours a very happy and healthy 2007!

Juliana Smith has been an editor of Ancestry.com newsletters for more than eight years and is author of “The Ancestry Family Historian’s Address Book.” She has written for “Ancestry” Magazine and wrote the Computers and Technology chapter in “The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy,” rev. 3rd edition. Juliana can be reached by e- mail at Juliana@Ancestry.com, but she regrets that her schedule does not allow her to assist with personal research.

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12 thoughts on “Juliana’s Family History Resolutions, by Juliana Smith

  1. Really enjoyed your article and your reflections about the holiday and looking to the new year. This is the first time I have read your column and plan to visit it in the future. I have been working on my geneology for only 2 years and it has been so exciting. I gleaned enough information to join the D.A.R., a most patriotic and wonderful organization. Your hint about journaling is something I will take more seriously. The things I have journaled so far in my life have given me great pleasure in the rereading and should be useful to future generations. Sincerely, Sue

  2. Juliana, I always feel you are a kindred spirit, and I too have a hubby who is most patient when I get too involved in my genealogical pursuits.

    Something I’d like to add to the list of resolutions is “input”! I have stacks of items I’ve found….it’s always much more fun to search isn’t it? So….my 2007 resolution is to get my genealogical material input to my genealogy program.

    I so enjoy reading your articles!

  3. I enjoyed the article! My resolution is to definitely get one of my surname files into a readable (book type)form for my family and for the local historical society. I have been working on this for several years, and researching since 1967, so it is about time!

  4. I know I need to back-up my information. But—I often read on Ancrstry.com about how we need to do this or do that. However, I very seldom, if ever have seen the information needed on how to do this or that. I realize that most people understand how to these things on their computers, but I bet there are more than a few folks out there, like me, who are just lucky that we can use our computers, just barely. How about more info on the exact way to do the things we need to do.

    Thanks,for everything, Joan Lente

  5. Juliana, I thoroughly enjoyed your 1 January 2007 article on Family History Resolutions. You’re an excellent writer, the subject matter is always interesting and appropriate, and I look forward to reading anything and everything you write. As Editor of Ancestry.com newsletters, it is a job well-done, over and over again. Thank you and Happy New Year to you and your family.

  6. Thanks for the great article. I started making my new years resolutions a few weeks ago. One was to put up links to several of my lines on Myfamily.com and invite some of my cousins to do the same. Which I did for a couple of lines. The second was to put up family trees I have been working on up on ancestry.com which I started this weekend. I have begun contacting cousins and other relatives that I have e-mails for to try to get more contact e-mails and mailing address for those I don’t have. My goal is to try to contact all of my living reletives to do the updates forward on descedents which I hate to admit I haven’t done in a really long time. New Year’s resolutions are great but you need to put them in writing and place them where you see them everyday and act on them.

  7. This was a wonderful article. Just the nudge that we all need after slowly letting things go throughout the year.
    Further to your reminder to backup would be to send the information to a genealogy relative a few states or provinces away from you. After Katrina I worried about my own work as I live in an earthquake area (west coast of Canada). I immediately contacted cousins, nieces and nephews across North America to see who could be as nutty as I was about their past. One of my nieces 2,000 kilometres away jumped up and took up the ball. I now send her a file every time I back up my family history.

  8. I really enjoyed your artical. My resolution this year is to burn copies of my work and the old pictures I have for other members of the family. I live in South Ala and I don’t want to take a chance on another Katrinia.

  9. Good evening. Enjoy your articles. Just a note regarding computer backups. In our company I have installed a second hard drive (fairly inexpensive now)and have purchased software Called “Second Copy”. This software was also fairly inexpensive ($30?). It makes a copy of your file to the second hard drive, it can do this when the file is changed or a schedule can be set up. It seems to work just fine. Just a thought!

  10. Hello, I just uploaded my family tree to Ancestry.com about two weeks ago. I work on it about 7 or 8 hours a day, sometimes more. When I finish putting in info can I print the index and my tree. I have let a few members visit the tree some made comment and some just e-mailed me. Once I put the tree on line do I have to back up the work I do? I didn’t think I had to do that. What about the tree info that’s saved on my computer can I delete it or some of the files and just keep the latest family tree file that is save to my computer.How do I back up my tree from ancestry.com? I need step by step instructions because I’m not that computer literate.How often can family members visit the tree,? Some haven’t seen it yet because they were away. I’m going to see if I can put in their e-mails again. Thanks for all comments others sent in. I guess I have more questions then comments. Lynetta Murphy (Evers)

  11. I am very interested the way you did that, you put it over in such a way that it was interesting to me.Because I am writting my grate garnd fathers book and it is hard to get relatives to give you something to go in the book. aspecially those who don’t care about us in the family . Then you get those who are very willing to help in any way thjey can. So hats off to you. It was a grate job and very well done.

  12. Julianna,

    Enjoyed your article. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to reply to everyone who sends me an email asking about one of my surnames – even if it is just to say that I can’t help them.

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