PLANNING YOUR GENEALOGY GARDEN
It is January of the year.
For many of us, the weather is cold and dreary; about as far removed from a nice "cemetery walking" day as you can get.
Years ago, what I looked most forward to this time of year was being able to view the catalogs, imagine large returns and plan my new springtime garden. It took me away from the cold and wet weather to be able to dream about those spring days of planting and the ultimate days of harvesting the vegetables. You would think that each year would pretty much be a repeat of the year before; but not really, as each year brought new varieties or new taste temptations to sample; there were new theories or methods to try out.
These days I have an additional task that I look forward to during this season of the year.
I have realized that my genealogical research can be planned, charted and dreamed about in much the same way as my vegetable garden.
The process isn't much different then planning a vegetable garden; and one could view the activity as "planning your genealogy garden".
Many of us have been following along with the organizational section of the website and getting our various papers together and sorted through.
This process has therefore enable us to really see what we have and what we don't have and still need so in essence we are "viewing our catalogs".
Viewing Our Catalogs
This time of the year allows us the luxury rarely afforded us during the active seasons of our research.
We need to take stock of what we have in the way of data in each particular lineage and the items that we still need.
There are a couple of ways to accomplish this task and each is a matter of personal preference.
1. Create a loose leaf notebook with a page designated for each surname --
In going through your data on each individual surname list the items that you do not yet have. Don't forget to also check your computer family database system.
2. Use 3x5 index cards --
I personally like this method as it reduces creating these cards later on. The use of 3x5 cards comes in very handy when visiting the libraries in the spring and summer. A collection of them can easily be banded together and thrown into your purse or jacket pocket. Each card can be titled with a specific type of document/data such as: birth certificate/ burial/ obituary/ parent's name, etc. These can be used as prompts when at the library to remind you of just what you need to look up on who. These work a little more conveniently then a large notebook.
Planning Your "Garden"
This step is designed to allow you to take the items you have just listed as being in need of and carefully and logically think and decide just where or what resource you will need to use in order to gather that information.
This could mean viewing a website for a particular library and finding out just which newspapers are found in their microfilm section. Most libraries will list the dates of the papers they have available and therefore allow you to pinpoint which ones you need based on your ancestors dates.
This also means looking at your research and determining just where you might need to go to on your vacation this year to search out graves or data.
You have plenty of time to plan out methodically the route you will drive; the hotels/restaurants in the area; the price ranges involved and to make a careful listing of the cemeteries you might want to visit in addition to double checking the hours of the libraries and archives.
For many of us, a vacation is just that. A predetermined time away from home. It is not an indefinite stay in another town.
Therefore, the wisest avenue to take for our research is to carefully plan our time carefully and know going in just what data we are determined to find.
If you have ever been to a genealogical library, many of them are set up so that you must wait for the librarian to bring out the books that we need to view. Being able to tell them the correct book will save you time. The more information you can gather during you visit; the more profitable your visit becomes. Also in planning your needs, it eliminates the need to return to this or that book to find data.
For example: If you are searching for someone in the 1860 mortality schedules of a county; wouldn't it make more sense to look for everyone on your list at one time instead of returning to that listing time after time? I don't mean look for all surnames in one scan through, but before closing that book, make sure you look for all your needs.
When you are visiting cemeteries, many of them are located in rural areas, on roads with no name or roads that are only known to the locals as something like "Bob's Road". Few of these roads are ever actually labeled for the "naive, unknowing, non local person" to read. You must know in some instances the local lore or the older residents names to find a place. Once you have spent most of your afternoon searching for a cemetery, when you finally find it, you probably will have little time for the actually researching or picture taking. In planning your trip or intended stops, it is possible to eliminate some of this wandering around; therefore increasing your time in the cemetery.
Looking forward to the Harvest
Well... how many of us don't constantly look forward to the harvest?
Use this time to also re-evaluate any strategies used in the past the perhaps did or didn't work. You might find new ones.
Look at your "research pack".
Your pack should contain: adequate film, camera in good working order, notebook paper, a few different pens and pencils, a couple of non-perishable snacks, a pair of grass clippers, a few old newspapers (for kneeling on), an old pair of boots (for muddy areas), a good current map of the area, at least a dollar's worth of chain for phone calls when you are lost.
Make a careful listing of each cemetery in the areas you wish to visit or research.
List each ancestor buried in the appropriate cemetery so that when arriving you know exactly who you are looking for.
So, maybe you can see now why I say that planning your genealogy garden isn't much different then planning your vegetable garden.
Most importantly !
Just as in harvesting your vegetable garden, you will immediately blanche, freeze or can your produce;
make certain that you don't forget to "process" your data carefully. Place it where it belongs and then remove it from your listing of "things that you still need".