Friday, January 2, 2015

Starting from Scratch? Again?

When Thomas MacEntee announced his intention to set aside all his previous research and start his genealogy from scratch, and then invited members of the GeneaBloggers community to join him in a Genealogy Do-Over, my mind went into a frenzy and I got hives just thinking about starting from scratch again.  (Not really about the frenzy and the hives, but it felt that way.)  I've only been at this family history research seven or so years and it's been such slow going.

As a youth I sometimes acted impulsively (nearly always with later regrets) but in maturity I've learned to accept the impulse as a reaction or a thought and let it rest in my mind while I think and mull over the situation rationally before acting on the impulse.  I've done that with this Do-Over.  Calm thought has not removed the frenzied feeling or the hives.  So I've decided not to participate in the Genealogy Do-Over.  I can't do it.  I can't start from scratch with an empty pedigree chart. 

However, I think I can be a Do-Better participant (or, as some call it, "Go-Over."  Yes, there are improvements I can make.
  • Some already-obtained documents need careful scrutiny, transcription, and evaluation. 
  • Instead of letting documents stack up I need to file them, even if I don't have time to do any more than that at the moment.  (And record their receipt in the appropriate research log.)
  • There are some documents that I acquired early on that seemed to reveal little at the time, but after having done more research about individuals and families may give helpful information to further research.
  • Pay closer attention to my "to do" lists for family history. 
  • Plan when to do genealogy activities (research, recording, etc.) instead of just letting things happen whenever I get around to them.
  • Be more attentive to recording search results in my research logs.
  • Learn to use Evernote and/or One Note.
  • And more.

I'm certain I'll learn more ways I can improve in the future as I follow along with what others are doing as they participate.  I'll be following the Genealogy Do-Over Facebook Group and reading Thomas's posts at Genealogy Do-Over Resource Page at

How about you?  Are you going to set your research aside and start from scratch?


Copyright © 2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. No, I can't do it either. Not fully anyway. I have downloaded a sample of Roots Magic to play with as if starting over. I intend to DO BETTER as well, especially with documentation. In following the GDO group on FB, I've picked up some terms new to me, like "pedigree collapse." Frankly, I'm not THAT high up in the genealogy food chain to worry about how to label those family members who marry cousins.

    1. I don't know what program you use, Wendy, but I'd interested to hear your thoughts about RootsMagic. It would be hard enough going back to nothing, but worse to add in learning a new program, too. I just joined the Facebook page, haven't seen the discussion of "pedigree collapse" yet. I'm not a huge fan of Facebook. If I spend time reading all the posts and comments on just one page, I've less time to research or do other things. I haven't lately counted the number of people and families in my database but even with the several hundred I (probably) have, I wouldn't want to start over.

  2. I've been at this too long to simply throw everything away and start over, although my early research on the "easy" ancestors definitely needs a redo. What I am going to do is go back over everyone and write them up as though they were a professional client report. That way, I can see all the gaping holes regarding what I actually found and properly documented as opposed to what I think I know, and I don't mean through genealogy software either. There's something about physically writing something down that makes you really think about it.

    1. Hi, Michael. Somehow, when I first began with the easy ancestors, someone impressed on me the need to do careful research and document just as carefully, so I don't feel the need to go back to my early research. But, as time went by, with more and more records accessible online, I've tended to collect the records, review and transcribe them, but not enter them or the ancestors in my computer program. (They're all in paper folders waiting for more documentation to confirm relationships, etc.) And I haven't been using research logs as I should. I know what you mean about physically writing things down. Maybe I'm just more attentive to detail when I do. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I appreciate that.

  3. It IS an interesting thought...however, it seems kind of like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Perhaps I just don't fully understand the concept or the reasons. Couldn't you just go back and verify and document? I certainly understand the reason for this. I like the idea of "go over" better than do-over.

    1. Hi, Kathleen. When genealogy became popular because websites like ancestry made it "easy," I think lots of people jumped on the bandwagon and adopted as their own individuals and families that may (or may not) have been truly theirs without doing the research to make an informed decision. Too, I think there may be people who could improve their research skills, learn more about transcribing and evaluating, about creating and keeping research logs, citing sources, etc. I think this "meme" was created for people in those situations. But then, I'm not perfect in any of those areas (except that I've never claimed as family someone from another's tree on ancestry). At the very least, thinking about some of the processes in the meme have brought me to a reevaluation of where I am with research and how I'm proceeding. I can always learn more! But I can't (or maybe won't is more accurate) start from scratch -- again. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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