Thursday, May 07, 2009

No more tangles

Sometimes we get so enmeshed in the multiple strands of our family history research it is really important to take a deep breath, step back, and simply take stock. Besides reminding us of the big picture -- our overall goal(s) -- this exercise can generate an encouraging sense of accomplishment. It might also help set priorities for future research. Perhaps the tangent you are following so intently right now is not, after all, that important to your overall aim. On the other hand, maybe it is! Or maybe your overall aim isn’t what you thought it was at first.

Here are some questions you might ask yourself:

1. What am I trying to do? -- a general statement of your goals (not the specific problem you should have in mind when you go to the library or when you go online)

2. What have I accomplished so far? -- this may surprise you

3. What are my current projects and interests? -- be sure to make a note of them all

4. Of these, what do I consider to be my brick walls? -- are they really so impenetrable? Or so important?

5. What other projects would I like to take on, or continue?

6. How can I go about strengthening my background knowledge in order to do better work? We are an impatient lot, always wanting to skim the cream off the top, collecting names and dates from easy-to-access databases, books and records; but at some point it is vital to sit down and spend some time with background reading, learning more, ever more, about laws, events, trends, and environmental aspects the would have affected our forebears’ lives.

Once you figure out your own satisfactory answers to these questions, revising and reviewing them occasionally may help keep you on track and inspire you as well!

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