Why I Did a Genealogy Do-Over

Earlier this month, Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers announced the Genealogy Do-Over.  He has decided to start his genealogy research from scratch in 2015.

A few years ago, I got to that same place.  I had started genealogy like most people started – just name collecting and pulling from online trees all over the internet.  But around 2008, I started to learn about analyzing sources and data and research methodologies.  So I began adding sources to my database and sometimes changing my conclusions based on the new sources and analysis I had done.

And then around 2009 and 2010, I came to the conclusion that my database was a mess.  I didn’t really have source citations included and there really was no consistency for place names or notes.  Most of my citations were a mess – not very clear and not in any sort of consistent formatting.  I was discovering that more and more of my previously copied “work” was not right.  And being the type-A personality that I am, the mess got to me.

So I started over.  I put all of my binders aside and all of my digital files in a holding folder and started over.  I started entering information in a consistent format and attempting to put my sources in Evidence Explained format (not always done perfectly, but close enough).  I was more consistently downloading the documents I was finding online and trying to really build my database and digital filing system without any major holes.

Starting your family tree all over again can be a daunting task, but it can also be a very rewarding experience. Photo courtesy of Kim Daniel of Unsplash.com

Starting your family tree all over again can be a daunting task, but it can also be a very rewarding experience.
Photo courtesy of Kim Daniel of Unsplash.com

Has the size of my database shrinked considerably?  Oh yes.  I generally don’t spend a lot of time on collateral ancestors anymore unless I am trying to break through a brick wall or feel like I have already gotten all the easy, low hanging fruit stuff.

Is my database perfect?  No.  Not even close.  But it is a lot better than it was and it is always a work in progress.  As my genealogical expertise improves, so does my database.

So for me…. it was worth it.  What about you?  Will you be joining in the genealogy do-over.

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3 responses to “Why I Did a Genealogy Do-Over

  1. Ideally, I’d love to do something like this. In fact, I think I recall seeing a suggestion like this on “Dear Myrtle” sometime in the last year.

    I have “kinda sorta” have done this. When I first started, it was a largely DOS-based world for genealogy software. Heck, it was still the days when you were limited to 8-character file names The program I used did not provide much ability to record sources – I can fit more information in a Tweet than I could fit on the source line for this program. Needless to say, you could not share one source amongst numerous items – each fact had its own source line. When I finally upgraded to a Windows-based program, it took me many months and many hours to manually reformat the sources and merge what I could. Since then, I’ve been pretty diligent in how I enter sources, but I still have hundreds of items left over from the confinements of early DOS days. As much as I’d love to fix it, real life has taken over and I have less free time than I had when I started, so I really have to prioritize how I spend my genealogy time.

    That said, the “sorta kinda” I referred to is that I have undertaken a project of reviewing sources I haven’t looked at in years – or decades – and am revisiting them to verify the information and to squeeze them for all the info that I missed through inexperience. For those sources, I provide a much more up-to-date and proper citation. The other thing I’ll do is piecemeal here-and-there fixes when I come across an old poorly-drafted citation.

    Ideally, I’d love to do this, but it’s not as high on the to-do list.

    • It certainly is not a task for everyone to take – I think it truly matters where you are in your genealogy journey as to whether it is a worth-while idea or whether it would be better to just focus on a particular line or group of ancestors and improve that as much as possible. I just had gotten tired of barking up too many wrong leads (particularly with my dad’s side) that I just knew I had to start fresh in order to straighten it all out.

  2. Elyse, I relate, I relate (pun intended). I am in the process of sifting and sorting as time permits and as fulltime retirement approaches a major do over is definitely in my plans.

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