Posts Tagged ‘organizing family history documents’

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy Challenge #3 — Assess Yourself

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Dean has a long day today and he asked if I’d like to take up Amy Coffin’s current “52 Weeks To Better Genealogy“ challenge and blog about it.

Assess yourself! You’re great at researching everyone else’s history, but how much of your own have you recorded? Do an assessment of your personal records and timeline events to ensure your own life is as well-documented as that of your ancestors.

I visited Geneabloggers, clicked through to a related post on Taylorstales-Genealogy blog  and was inspired by the idea of using timelines to document personal history. A number of years ago I created a date-focused Access database to help me wrap my mind around the complicated comings and goings of a family I was researching. This morning I thought, “Why not do the same thing for us?”

blog1Creating an Access Database

So here’s what I’ve done so far:

First, after a bit of trial and error, I created a database with the fields below. I may tweak them, but it’s a good start.

Month Name
Document Location

Entering Some Basic Timeline Events

I entered our marriage and the births of our two children and then I started to search out records that would have dated information for important family milestones. blog2Google Calendar was my first stop.

The entry for Monday, 21 January 2008 reads “7 pm First Fiddle Lesson.” I saved a screen shot as “tl-001” and entered the information into the database, along with a couple of sentences describing how the lesson went. I’ve been happily learning to fiddle for the past two years and so that anniversary is on my mind. <smile>

A Filing Brainstorm

Then I went to the garage and retrieved a box labeled “Family History.” It’s neatly organized, but who knows what’s there?

A folder labeled “U of A Graduation” caught my eye and so I pulled it out to have a look. I found my diploma, graduation announcements for both Dean and me, and a graduation program. I entered information from each record and then had to decide how to file the papers.

At first, I was going to put them back in the box, thinking that I could organize them later, but then I had a brainstorm driving home from the grocery store. I decided to create a folder for each year entered in the database and any record that isn’t part of our “Very Important Papers” notebook, I will file there.

(Quite a few years ago, we created a notebook titled “Very Important Papers” and we use it to keep track of birth certificates, immunization records, and the like, storing it in a very accessible place in case we needed to get to it in an emergency.)

A Simple System

Once I had a few records entered, I took some time to work on creating an attractive report. I’ll most likely edit it, but for now, it works. As an example, I did a query for our daughter Amelia and took a screen shot of the resulting report.

blog3It’s a simple system, but I think it might work for us. The challenge will be to find time each week to add things to the database.

Putting it Into Practice

Maybe I can work on it on Sundays when Dean is focused on organizing the genealogy-related papers that we’ve collected over the past thirty years.

I’ve always feel a bit of kinship with people whose date of immigration changes from census to census. If you knocked on my door and asked me to tell you what year we came to Illinois or which summer we lived in California, I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head and I’d have a hard time figuring it out.

Maybe it’s time to do something about that. Ask me in a month when we arrived in Wilmette and I’ll bet I’ll be able to tell you.