I only came across the blog post 31 Days of Family History Fitness at the very end of January so I decided to do it in February instead. I’ll update you with my progress on a weekly basis.
Day 1: Sync your desktop software and online family trees to make sure you have the latest version of your work in both places. If you don’t use desktop software, download a GEDCOM of your online tree instead. If you don’t have genealogy software or an online family tree, consider starting an online tree to help you organize your research.
I don’t use desktop software but instead build my private tree on the Ancestry website. I do download GEDCOM copies of it in an ad hoc manner, when I think I’ve made a sufficient number of changes to warrant doing so. This had increased a little recently when I’ve been playing around with TNG, but I could do with a more regular pattern as well as the ad hoc extras. So since I’m starting a new month to improve my family history fitness, I’ll mark the beginning of the month as the time when I take a new GEDCOM copy.
Day 2: Back up your genealogy data using an external hard drive or a cloud service. If you don’t currently use a backup system like Dropbox or Backblaze, take some time to learn about them.
With my new regular export to GEDCOM I’m also going to use that to save it off to an external hard-drive too. If I do them both together I have more chance of achieving this as a regular step.
Day 3: Create a source citation workflow so that you—and anyone who sees your research—will know where you got your information.
Citations are one of my strong suits, and possibly the reason why it’s taking me so long to finish my work. Nothing goes into the tree without full transcriptions and source citations.
Day 4: Set up a file-naming convention, and make sure all your documents follow it. This will simplify your filing and help you quickly find the information you need.
Some of my documents follow a good scheme and some don’t. Census pages and any statutory records (post-1855) are well organised including the year in the naming scheme. Old Parish Records are much less organised and every time I need to browse a particular year it takes me a while to find it. So I’ve used this prompt as a nudge to get that sorted.
Day 5: Find your local FamilySearch Center. Have you ever visited one? These branches of the Family History Library (FHL) have helpful volunteers, local resources, and computers with access to genealogy websites. From a FamilySearch Center, you can also rent microfilmed records from the FHL. Search for the nearest one, and call to check the hours.
This is my nearest Family History Centre. It is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 9.30am -3.30pm. I haven’t been there yet, but I definitely want to go.
Day 6: If you’ve taken a DNA test, look at your DNA matches (not just the ethnicity results) and review the match information for any fourth cousin or closer. Also check for messages from any matches who’ve contacted you (and respond to them).
Since I haven’t taken a DNA test, I’ve skipped this day. After all there are more days in January than there are in February so in order to complete it in February I need to get cracking.
Day 7: Choose a town your ancestors lived in and search the FamilySearch online catalog for it. Browse records the FHL has on microfilm and note any that might apply to your research. You might even find links to digitized versions on the FamilySearch website.
Searching the FamilySearch online catalog for Unst showed up a small number of records, but nothing that I hadn’t seen before. At least I know I’m not missing out on something major as a source!
FamilySearch Catalog, results for Unst
Search a digitized newspaper collection for names on your family tree on the Library of Congress’ free Chronicling America website
The best digitised newspaper site for British research is of course the British Newspaper Archives. It has the Shetland Times, from 1872 onwards, digitised which I use in an ad hoc manner at the moment, with an intention to go through more thoroughly once I finish processing all the information I have already collected. It can also be used for free from the library which is nice.
So that’s week 1 finished. I’m feeling fitter already, well better organised anyway!