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5 tips to tackle your family history

June 6, 2017

Many people want to work on their family history but often become discouraged when faced with the amount or complexity of work involved. And it's true that it can be a daunting task! But don't get discouraged. There are a few good tricks to help you get started and stay on track.


1) The most important advice I can give is to make sure you parse the project into manageable "mini-projects". If you are thinking, "This summer I am going to clean out all the boxes in the attic and create full family trees for both my side and my husband's side," you are quickly going to feel completely overwhelmed. Instead, consider just tackling the boxes in the attic or just pulling the files related to one branch of your family. This is already a fair amount of work and will give you an idea of how to plan the next steps.


2) Stay organized. Determine a system early on to manage all the paper and information that starts showing up for different family members. Whether it's manila folders, envelopes or shoe boxes, be disciplined about triage. If you don't properly organize the materials you dig up, you are quickly going to feel like you are going crazy wondering where you put Great-Uncle Joe's immigration records, Grand-Ma Sally's birth certificate and the like.


3) Stay focused on your goals. This is a similar tip to #1 above. It is very easy to get distracted when researching family history or tidying up boxes with materials so old you had forgotten their very existence. Walking down memory lane can be pleasurable but it can also be a significant distraction. Make sure you balance work and pleasure in order to make regular progress.


4) Have fun! Working on your family history will bring back many memories of people and times past. Embrace it. Take the opportunity to reach out to a relative you haven't spoken to in a while to reminisce about a shared experience. You may be surprised how differently you both remember the same event or how the conversation triggers more memories. Just try not to get sidetracked with too many social calls!


5) Hire someone to help you with different stages of your family history project. Personal history should be fun, easy and meaningful. If you enjoy doing research on family members but organizing files is deeply boring, get some help! Not everyone enjoys the same kind of work. That's ok! Punishing yourself with tasks you find dreary will take away from the pleasure of the overall project.







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