Think about the last dance you attended. It may have been last week or thirty years ago, but in a crowded room, dancing is almost impossible because you keep running into other people, or furniture or walls get in your way. And in a dance, others may laugh at your dancing style or clothes.
Now think about your online genealogy as a dance that you are trying to navigate, but you keep running into other people, walls, others’ opinions, and other obstacles. Janet Hovorka addressed this in her presentation at the BYU Family History Conference on July 29, 2015, titled “Six Steps to Choreograph Your Research across the Internet.”
A common complaint about FamilySearch Family Tree is “Why do people come in and mess up my tree, change the information, set aside what I have done, leave me out of the family tree, and stop me from changing what I know to be correct?” Frustrations abound in these public family trees. Hovorka clarified this when she defined a public tree—making life and comprehension easier.
What is a public tree? She called it a “community” or a “public conclusion tree.” These trees are found in FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage.com, and Ancestry.com, among many others. Many people contribute to these online trees, giving hints, sharing sources, showing pictures, and telling stories. But there are problems using these trees if you don’t know how to interpret these databases. And, of course, when your conclusions are changed or questioned, you want to throw up your hands and say, “I’m not going to do this anymore!” Don’t stop! Hovorka said, “The six steps [below] will keep you moving and dancing around brick walls in your family history research.”
These “personal conclusion trees” are great for collaboration, but these six steps will help you to have fun with your “dance” in genealogy.
Step 1: Know what you are really looking at online. Distinguish between the quality conclusions of others and original documents about your ancestors’ lives.
The sources and good interpretation are the keys—dig deeply into those sources, compare them, find them, and interpret them. She said that “good researchers dig down deep into the sources to come to the original documents of a person’s life.” Make use of helps about sources, and study the many different places you can find them.
Step 2: Create a personal conclusion tree and know how to sync it and what you can attach to it from websites across the net.
This is the key to keeping the frustration level down: Make your own tree, offline, on your own computer by using your favorite program. Hovorka says that offline software solutions offer clear copyright application, more features and reports, no privacy issues for living people, and usually more speed. Some software packages synchronize with online tree and easily compare databases. Some of the most popular software applications include: FamilySearch – Legacy, Ancestral Quest, and RootsMagic; MyHeritage – Family Tree Builder, Family Historian and RootsMagic; Ancestry – Family Tree Maker. She suggests choosing one place to start a tree and look for information on the other websites.
Step 3: Know the best search strategies and where to go if you aren’t finding what you need.
Planning—the word sometimes is daunting, but creating a plan is absolutely necessary. She suggests clear research objectives, a plan to find the sources, learn about records, ask others in Wiki, use social networking, try different spellings of your names, and other research tips. BUT, keep track of everything you do so you and those who follow you don’t have to do the same work again and again.
Step 4: Use tabs, windows, and multiple screens to quickly work between sites.
Learn how to use the online features of your computer. Check on tutorials for your particular computer.
Step 5: Use timelines to constructs a bird’s eye view of your ancestor’s life and keep track of everything you find.
Make up a chart, using your program, Excel, or other sources, and write down all the material you have about, for example, the birth of your ancestor—maybe there are conflicts, but get everything, and put it down by date or event. You will find much information on your public conclusion tree. Put everything on your personal record that you can find. Then continue with Step 6.
Step 6: Record what you find with complete notations and analysis so that you don’t create any unnecessary brick walls.
As Hovorka said, “Good researchers dig down deep in the sources.” They document, collect all they can find, keep everything traceable by citing good records, and remember to use the all-important analysis in the notes section of their source citations.
Don’t create any unnecessary brick walls, and keep dancing!
This presentation was presented by Janet Hovorka at the BYU Family History and Genealogy Conference held July 29, 2013 held at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. You can contact Janet Hovorka at the following email addresses: JanetHovorka.com; ZaptheGrandmaGap.com; FamilyChartMasters.com; email@example.com.