From the office: New Year's resolutions

By Jon Bauckham, 3 January 2014 - 11:07am

Back in the office after the festive break, editorial assistant Jon Bauckham shares five family history resolutions to think about in 2014

Thursday 2 January 2014

Jon Bauckham, editorial assistant
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Firstly, Happy New Year! After a week and a bit of stuffing my face and enjoying the festive spirit, I finally returned to the office this morning to help put the finishing touches to our February issue, which goes to press on Monday.

While I'm still a bit bleary-eyed, I’m really looking forward to the year ahead and curious to see what it brings. As well as the centenary of the First World War, there’s a whole host of exciting record releases coming up – as highlighted in Sarah’s last blog and the January issue.

However, I suppose the Christmas break has also given me the chance to reflect on 2013 and think about some New Year’s resolutions.

Although I’ve got a few personal ones (which I’m going to keep a secret for now, as I don’t want to be held to them just yet!), I decided to jot down five resolutions that I think are appropriate for all family historians.

Even if you consider yourself a seasoned researcher, it’s always worth taking stock of your progress and setting a few goals…
 

1. Get involved with a society

It can be too easy to remain hunched over a computer screen when doing your research. Yet while the subscription sites boast more records than ever before, getting help in person can be so much more rewarding.

Not only will a society look after key resources relating to your area of interest, you can guarantee that they’ll share your passion and enthusiasm.

Combine that with regular talks, workshops and family history fairs (a chance to stock up on genealogical goodies!) becoming part of a community is definitely recommended. For details of groups across the UK, see the Federation of Family History Societies website at ffhs.org.uk.
 

2. Take part in a crowdsourcing project

As I mentioned above, the web offers access to a wealth of historic records. Yet we can take this for granted and forget about the work that goes on behind the scenes to get documents ready for digitisation.

Due to the high cost of such projects, many sites have turned to ‘crowdsourcing’ in order to get the job done. This means that the task is broken down into chunks and undertaken by large numbers of volunteers rather than a single organisation.

The first site that springs to mind when talking about crowdsourcing is FamilySearch, which encourages volunteers to help index millions of records from around the world. Not only is it surprisingly addictive, but the process means that more records can be made available to all.

Other initiatives I’ve encountered recently include Cymru1900Wales and ScotlandsPlaces – both fantastic UK projects that would definitely benefit from more volunteers.
 

3. Start backing up your files 

If you’re working digitally (after all, you are reading this blog!), it is amazing just how much you can end up ‘trusting’ the technology.

But just think – how stuck would you be if you were to suddenly lose all of your work? As well as saving clearly labelled files on external devices (hard drives, discs etc) it’s worth signing up to an online storage facility, such as Dropbox. This way, you can also access your documents on the go.

Anyone who is signed up to receive Dick Eastman’s popular email newsletter will know the importance of backing up your data regularly – he suggests getting into a habit of doing it on the first day of each month.
 

4. Talk to your family more often

One of the key rules of genealogy is to talk to your family. Even if you did do this when making your first forays into the hobby, it’s worth paying another visit to that distant cousin and letting them know what you have been able to discover with their help.

It's not just common courtesy, but you may find that new documents or heirlooms have fallen into their hands since your last meeting.
 

5. Get out more!

There’s nothing quite like the adventure of visiting archives and viewing primary sources in person. Think carefully about the problems you want to solve over the next 12 months and check whether or not the records you need are already online.

Then, contact the relevant archive (some may require you to book in advance) and start planning your trip. Even if you’re well-travelled, there are some fantastic new facilities that may hold the missing pieces of your puzzle, such as The Keep in East Sussex and the Library of Birmingham. You may wish to make a whole weekend of it and visit some of the key places in your ancestors’ lives.

Plus, if you haven’t been before, do go along to Who Do You Think You Are? Live, which kicks off at London’s Olympia on 20 February (tickets available here). We’ll be there too, so come and say hello!
 

What are your New Year's resolutions? Share them by posting in the comments box below, or logging in to the Who Do You Think You Are? Forum.

 

From the office: 10 websites to watch in 2014
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From the office: First World War research
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From the office: 10 websites to watch in 2014
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From the office: First World War research
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