Wednesday 5 January 2011

New Year Resolutions - 5

Traditionally, homes were whitewashed in the weeks leading up to Christmas, the intention being to make sure the home was spic and span, ready to receive family and friends for the festive season.

In a similar spirit, Resolution 5 is to Whitewash your Research ie really tidy, organise and spruce up your records, to ensure that when next Christmas comes around, they're in great shape.

For some, this will be quite a daunting prospect. But, let's face it, the more daunting, the more likely your research material needs a darn good sort out.
  • Write or type up all your notes. Gather all your scraps of paper, Post-Its and notebooks into one place. Sift through and sort into surname/individual order or chronological order (whichever works best). Initially just concentrate on breaking down a mammoth project into smaller, more manageable tasks. Then tackle one task at a time. Create a realistic schedule and work systematically through it.
  • Label & archive your family photos. I went through this exercise myself last year and ended up with 976 photos, each one physically labelled, scanned with an identifying file name, and filed in 'decade' and 'surname' folders on my computer. This huge digital album was then transferred onto dvd, and I sent copies to all my siblings just before Christmas. I've also transferred the album onto two memory sticks – one lives in my purse, the other on my desk. I swear I've slept better in the last month, knowing that my family's photographic inheritance is safe, even if disaster should strike the original old photos themselves.
    1. Before you launch into labelling and scanning, make sure you have correctly identified all the people in the photos.
    2. Don't write directly onto the back of a photo.... write onto a self-sticking label and then attach it to the back of the photo.
    3. For long-term storage of originals, use acid-free, archival quality boxes.
  • Decide who will inherit your research: This will be taking the notion of a tidy-up a little too far for some, but I'll mention it anyway. Do you want the results of all your genealogy effort to languish in a loft when you've gone, or do you want to ensure someone else enjoys and/or continues your work? I'll assume the latter! In which case you need to make a decision, ensure several members of the family are aware of it, and, if necessary, leave written instructions. Depending on the make-up of your family, you might even want to divide your research between different branches of your family.