Confucius said, “A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it is committing another mistake.” D. Joshua Taylor quoted this axiom at the beginning of his presentation to RootsTech 2016 attendees about the 25 mistakes everyone should avoid when doing genealogy and family history.
Some attendees new to genealogy may know Josh from one of his appearances on Who Do You Think You Are? or as one of the hosts of Genealogy Roadshow. Others may know him from Find My Past. Recently, Josh was appointed president and executive director of the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society (NYG&B) and continues to serve as the president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS). With all of this experience, Josh identified 25 common tech mistakes that genealogists make and revealed how he would correct them.
For example, he lists one of the mistakes individuals make is to limit usage to one family tree program. There are so many wonderful features within the available programs, but no one program does it all. He suggests using a few different family tree software programs to take advantage of all of these features.
Within a person’s family tree program, he recommends that it is a mistake to have “one big file” because the file can become unmanageable. He says that it is better to have smaller defined files based on project and family. Later he mentioned that online trees are not a permanent storage solution, at least for him at this time. Yet to not have an online tree with all of the technological advances, such as hinting, would be a mistake. His current solution to this problem is to create online trees according to project and family as necessary.
Another mistake he’s made is to think that “if it costs a lot, it must be good.” This is not always the case. At the time of purchase, needed features must be identified and the cost in time and money for education should be evaluated. Early in his genealogical career, Josh purchased an expensive photo editing program that has a steep learning curve and its cost was probably greater than his need.
He recommends apps that are not specifically developed for genealogy, like trello and todolist. He encourages genealogists to experiment with apps to discover which ones work best for them. He encourages everyone to adopt best practices, including a regular sync and backup plan and adopting the L.O.C.K.S.S. principle, Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe (lockss.org).
Josh admits that all of us will make mistakes and even repeat them from time to time. Nevertheless, we can learn from every mistake. He observes that mistakes can change over time. An example would be to scan photos and place them on CDs; it was a great idea in its time but not with today’s advances in technology. In the end, Josh recognizes that “[his] mistakes [are] not always [another’s] mistakes” but that all of us can learn from each other.
If you are at RootsTech and you missed Can I Undo That? 25 Tech Mistakes You Should Avoid on Thursday, you have the opportunity to hear his presentation on Saturday, February 6 at 1:30pm in Room 150 (Session ID GS2485).
Lynn Broderick (https://thesingleleaf.wordpress.com/) is a professional genealogist that is passionate about researching individuals of the past in the context of family, community, and social history. She combined her childhood memories of football and genealogy to create genealogy football and works with her team to win their family history bowl each year. She loves to coach people on how to enjoy pursuing their family history and has done so for over 25 years.