I’ve learned a lesson the hard way. I have arthritis in my hands, so I try to write as little as possible. It has affected how I do research for the worst.
I was thrilled when companies began digitizing records and adding them online as I hadn’t been able to use a microfilm reader for a couple of years. Now I’d have records at hand. I could save them to my computer and input directly from that.
Yeah…right…that’s how it was supposed to work. As my health worsened, I continued to research, but I didn’t do much with what I found. What’s has happened is over the years I’ve become a collector of records but not much of a disseminator of information. So I have hundreds if not thousands of records on my computer bursting with information and I have no clue what that information is!
You see, I forgot an important step. Even though I was collecting information, I still had to do something with it. I’ve slowly been inputting records as my physical abilities will allow. I’m not anywhere near finished. But, it’s made me rethink how I research and how to be a more effective genealogist.
Recently, I started working in the French civil records as they’ve been digitized and put online. It’s slow work since I don’t know French, but not impossible. Once you learn the pattern of foreign records you can read the necessary information easily.
I decided that I was only going to translate these suckers once. I’m taking notes as I go. Then I can read what I have offline for further review. I can input from my notes once I figure out if I’ve found a relative. I have a saved copy just in case my notes don’t make sense. It’s slow going since I can only write three or four entries before my hand gets sore, but doing 3 or 4 hear and there is much more efficient than having a hundred records and not knowing what’s in them.
This has made me realize that I created my own problem. I really should have been taking notes as I went. And, not scribbly little notes on scrap paper. Real research notes on binder paper with the lines, notes that I can organize and refer to. I can work with them when away from my computer, too.
Don’t fall into the trap that I did. Just because records are easy to access and easy to save, doesn’t mean you should treat them differently that those found the old fashion way.
I hope some day to clear out my backlog. I want to be someone with a brilliant family tree, not a collector of a bunch of disparate documents.
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com