Alternative Spring Break Genealogy Ideas

Like the rest of the world, my Spring Break plans have come undone.  Flexibility is a great trait for genealogists so I’m looking at this bump in the road as a way to help me grow.  Seriously!  Stick with me and I’ll give you some ideas.

First, I’d like to apologize for my last blog being posted late. I didn’t realize until Wednesday it hadn’t been published.  Typically, I write on Saturday mornings and post immediately.  The week prior, I thought I would be working on Saturday so I wrote two blogs with the intent of publishing the second before I left for work the next weekend.  Except, my weekend gig was cancelled.  I decided Saturday to alter my routine.  After the crazy week of trying to wrap up client requests in the event that my local archives closed (and they have) and making plans to relocate my educational job to home (which also came to be), along with trying to prepare our home for shelter in place, I decided to take Saturday to spend outdoors all day.  Our yard looks fantastic! On Sunday, fired up by all we had accomplished the day before, I got the brilliant idea to clean the garage which consumed most of the day.  Then Monday, what should have been the start of my spring break, I spent posting to groups on my school district’s platform to reach out to parents and students.  That took up most of Monday and Tuesday.  By Wednesday, I was in a routine for our new normal and was ready to pick back up with genealogy. 

My advice if, like me, you’re stuck at home – DO NOT SIT ALL DAY IN FRONT OF YOUR COMPUTER!  You will get lulled into a stupor, miss clues and follow a path down a rabbit hole that won’t help you find what you’re seeking. Instead, this is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on your practice and do the things that you’ve been meaning to do but put off.   Here’s some ideas:

1.       Clean your work area.  You might uncover a note to self of a document you wanted to investigate, an email you wanted to send or copies of research you meant to review but didn’t get around to it.  I found some great ideas for future blog posts which leads me to recommending…

2.      Start your own blog.  It’s easy, it’s fun to connect to others who are as passionate as you are and it can be free.  I post in two places – Google’s Blogger and on my own website (which I do pay to maintain).  Not sure what to write about?  Whatever you’re interested in is fine. You’d be surprised at how many far-flung family members will find you if you post about a surname, especially an uncommon one.  The thought of surnames leads me to realize…

3.      We aren’t the only generation that’s experienced working from home.  I bet, like me, you have a sizeable number of ancestors who were farmers.  They lived on the place they worked.  My husband’s side had a number of mariners who lived on their boats and retailers who lived above their stores.  I’ve also had tavernkeepers who lived on site.  Travel, back in the day, was often difficult which explains why deeds weren’t presented in a timely manner, obits weren’t noticed in the nearest city’s newspaper and children learned at home.  If you’re getting claustrophobic, take your electronic device outside, Google a location, select “more” from the ribbon and click “Books.”  Now pick an old book from your selected location and read about what life was like when your ancestor was homebound.  Highlight or take notes on anything that gives you an idea for further research.  Some ideas are the name of the church denomination that was there in 1809, the old cemetery that isn’t listed on Find-A-Grave or Billion Graves, or where the courthouse was located.  You can email the local genealogy society for more information on where those records may be housed and then take that info and turn it into a…

4.      Research Question.  This is a wonderful opportunity to up your genealogy practices and truly write down what you want answered.  Every genealogy software program has somewhere you can record your question, be it notes or comments.  I sometimes even use stickees to keep me on track.  Post it right on your screen to stay focused.  Research shows that we need to give our brains a break from intense focusing so…

5.      Get up and move for a bit.  Walk around your house and put labels on the bottom of family heirlooms.  Sure, you know who owned what but that doesn’t mean your descendants will remember.  Stand and sort that pile of papers you meant to file or reorganize your files entirely.  I like sorting by surname and then alphabetically by first name but whatever works for you is fine.  Now stand and scan the info, saving to your external hard drive, cloud or other device.  Wow, you just got some exercise, rested your brain and accomplished a task you’ve been putting off for awhile.  Good for you!   Part 2 with more ideas coming soon.

Genealogy At Heart Website Update

I’ve been writing a lot about technology lately.  I do love it but it certainly is a pain when it glitches!  Last year I created a free website using Sidengo called www.GenealogyAtHeart.com.  I linked my blog posts to it and featured genealogical special offers, photos of recent research trips I’d taken and information for clients who were interested in contacting me.  In July, I received an email from Sidengo that in less than 3 weeks my account was going to be closed unless I moved to a paid option.  I was leaving town for a two week research trip the next day, had a client deadline I had to finish before I left and was returning to my teaching job three days after the research trip ended so I felt rushed into making a decision.  Hubby thought I should just pay up to make my life easier but I didn’t want to do that as I thought it was poor customer service to pressure folks into paying.  During my evenings while I was on my research trip I searched for alternatives.  I settled on another company but wasn’t really happy with it – I was only able to get one page so the website was a long scroll AND I couldn’t link to my blog posts so I had to list them which was cumbersome for readers.

In September, the Association of Professional Genealogists had a webinar about WordPress. I had explored them in July but didn’t find the site intuitive enough for me to figure out how to quickly put together my webpages.  After watching the webinar I thought I’d give it another try and in just a few hours I had my webpages almost back to where it was from the beginning.  It’s officially live so I’ll continue to post my blogs on blogspot and then archive at genealogyatheart.com.  So, if you want to find an older post and you remember the month – you can look on blogger.  If you can’t remember when it was published but are looking for the topic – visit genealogyatheart.com where I’ve tagged and archived by area.