To Do- or Not To Genealogy Do-Over - Wed, 7 Jan 2015
It seems the Genealogy Do-Over #gendover is the hot trend of early 2015. This is the idea that most of us who started doing our genealogy long ago, did not do it the correct way. We were name collectors and took anything and everything we could find and assembled it into our tree. We did not record sources. We did not do GPS. We believed everything we found was true.
So the idea of a Genealogy Do-Over is to put all that aside, maybe even throw it all away, and start completely over and do it again but correctly this time.
Elyse Doerflinger said she did one a few years ago, and for her it was worth it.
and many, many others started taking this up as well.
Some notable bloggers decided to support the initiative but not go all the way, such as Dear Myrtle who is doing a “quasi” do-over, and Russ Worthington who said he will participate but not start his file over.
So What’s Going On Here?
Do people really need to redo their work. Is it that bad?
Actually, in most cases, Yes, it is that bad. We have been name collectors. We haven’t recorded sources. Our work is a mess. Our organization is a mess.
Even in my case, the last set of data I put together 15 years ago for my extended Kessler family of 1,600 people was all names and events (dates and places). No sources in that file. However, I did at the time realize the necessity to record sources and I instead had each document filed in binders, organized by source type and source. So it’s all there, just not entered into the last genealogy program I used.
For too long, genealogy software have stressed building your tree, and not documenting the evidence or your reasoning behind it. Even if you tried to document your sources properly, the software never promoted it. You had to do extra work to do so.
Things have got a bit better, but not much, and some efforts have gone backwards. The inclusion of citation templates actually adds a lot of overhead into your recording of sources. You have to find the right template and figure out precisely how to properly enter each field. It is not simple. It’s actually onerous.
Really, what you want to do is do four things:
1. Be organized
2. Record all your sources
3. Ensure that all the information from all your sources in included in your tree.
4. Document your reasoning for your conclusions.
But, Do We Need A Do-Over?
No. There’s a better way.
I’m a programmer. I’ve learned that it is not good to throw work away. There are gems in your previous work that you’ll never get back. And starting from scratch takes way longer than you expect. It’s a lot of work. Progress at times doing a do-over will be slow. Motivation will sometimes be difficult. So much so, you may stop looking forward to the “tedious” work you still have to do to get back to where you once were and you may lose the joy of genealogy that you once had. That would be a disaster.
The recipe, instead of a do-over, is an incremental fix. Keep what you’ve got and fix one part of it. Stir. Repeat until done.
To incorporate those four things I listed above, you need to switch modes. Switch from being people/conclusion-based to being source/record/evidence-based.
Do this incrementally. Take one of your sources, any one you want. Go through it rigorously. Find all the people and events that the source gives information about and go to your family tree program, check that each of the items is included and is accurate, and assign this source to it. If this is a digital source, put it in a new area on your computer organized in a source-based (not surname-based) way. If it is a physical source, place it in a new storage area organized by source-type and source. There are many ways to set this up, but that’s another topic for another time.
And every new bit of research you do (and you are allowed to do new research, which is more difficult during a do-over) will use your new source-based techniques.
Here’s the magic and beauty of all this. You will always have your entire genealogy to work from. Some will be old school, but it will slowly migrate to new-school. Each source you complete will make you feel very satisfied. You will correct past errors. And once one source is done, you’ll know you’ve covered it completely. Each one you do gets you closer and closer to getting your Re-Do done – the right way!
Now, I’m not saying this Genealogy Do-Over trend is necessarily a bad thing. The ideas being brought forward are great. The initiative is getting people involved again in their own genealogy in a big way. All the discussion is about trying to get you to do it the right way. This is fantastic.
In the end it’s up to you.
But I like the Source-Based Incremental Genealogy Fix.