Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Alas Regrets, I Knew Them Randy

Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings poses a very interesting question :: What are your top three genealogical regrets (question based on an APG mailing list post by Mark Fearer)?

I'd like to turn this around by starting with the things I did correctly:

1. The first thing I did correctly was take the University of Washington Certificate Program in Genealogy and Family History, before I started my research. It was a nine month in-depth course that taught the following:

Placing genealogical research techniques within a family history context. Topics:

* Vital records, oral history and interviewing techniques
* Conservation and interpretation of photographs
* Genealogical software and internet resources
* U.S. immigration, migration and historical evidence
* Cemeteries, mortuaries and obituaries
* U.S. census and occupational mobility

Critiquing a family history case study and preparing an analysis of family history using terms discussed in lectures and readings.

Learning the techniques to locate and interpret specific types of historical records. Development of a family history research strategy for my own project. Development of independent research skills. Topics:

* Research in land, military, religious, naturalization and probate records
* An examination of social history concepts such as immigration, ethnicity, social structure and demographic changes, through a series of case studies.

Development and completion of my research project in family history. Presentations by participants on research findings, which have genealogical and historical implications and a completed family history project.

2. Because of my legal background, I properly cited my sources. I did that from the very beginning and today I can find anything.

3. I was a participant in the Nearby History Writers Workshop. This taught me writing style and how to incorporate history (social, cultural, etc.) into my family projects. Very similar to marrying the facts with the law.

4. I suffered from voracious ravenousitis with regard to information about historical and genealogical research. I read everything I could get my hands on regarding this type of research. When I finished I had a true understanding of what type of research was required. I found a fantastic online guide - Reading, Writing, and Researching for History, A Guide for College Students. I refer to it often.

What I regret? The usual suspects:

1. That I took so much for granted growing up in the middle of all that family information. Now why would you accept the fact that you had an Aunt named "Toad" and an Uncle named "Chick" and not ask what their real names were? Common sense kicked in too late for many of the things that were at my finger tips. So I regret not acquiring information before I lost all those primary sources.

2. That I have a real problem with focus. I am so easily distracted. I look at the enormity of my family history and choose to do nothing.

My husband often walks past my office and asks, "How do you eat an elephant?" And I always answer, "One bite at a time." But I don't always take that advice and I should.

One small step every day, if it is only one photograph scanned or one data entry made, is progress. The day is going to happen anyway, so why not accomplish one small step. At the end of the year this will be 365 scanned photos or 365 data entries, no longer such a small endeavor.

3. That I can't seem to decide on one method of organization. I seem to be drawn to the methods or researching the method, rather than getting organized. Probably just a subset of my lack of focus or love of research.


Dover, Dover. 120 Classic Posters from "Les Maitres De L'affiche" CD-Rom and Book. New York: Dover Publications, 2005.



Blogger Janice said...


I love how you turned this question around and listed what you did right!!


March 11, 2008 at 5:08 PM  
Blogger Becky Wiseman said...

I'm guilty of the same 3 regrets as you, in addition to several others, such as not citing my sources (sometimes not properly but sometimes not at all). I'm in the midst of reviewing and reorganizing my files and can't decide the "best" way. The elephant is too big to see over the top.

I wish I could say I did the first four things you did but can't. I did take a short course on genealogy research shortly after I got started but it only gave me enough information to make me think I knew what I was doing.

March 11, 2008 at 5:33 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


One of the things I've learned about critiquing, myself or others, is to start with the positive.

Then the regrets don't hurt as much.



You’ll be able to see over the elephant once you’ve gnawed his legs off.

One bite at a time.


March 11, 2008 at 5:40 PM  
Blogger Thomas MacEntee said...

Great post. I myself do not believe in having any regrets in life at all. Things happen and are done, or not done, for a reason. If I spend too much time on "shoulda coulda woulda" I won't be able to see what the present and future offer to me. It doesn't mean that my choices are reckless or I am a risk taker, but I do choose to leave some things to karma and the cosmos.

March 11, 2008 at 7:52 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Ahh, Thomas:

So karma is your dogma.

Love the green by the way.


March 11, 2008 at 7:56 PM  

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