Thinking about setting some goals to help you make further headway with your family tree this year? Here are a few ways to make it happen - focus on one or two that work for you and see how you go.
1. Book a trip
There’s nothing like standing in the spot where your ancestors once stood. Taking photos of the places they lived, worked, visited or played. Perhaps you could take some time to access local records not available to you at home. Wherever your ancestors lived, make a goal to book that trip you’ve always wanted.
2. Hold a family reunion
Get together for a chance to swap photographs, memories and stories. It could be just immediate family, or it could be with cousins you’ve never met, it could be a particular branch of your family tree – it is up to you. Book a place to meet that is easy for everyone to get to, and ask everyone to bring their memorabilia. Be prepared with a computer, scanner and other equipment for copying all the goodies each person brings, and make sure everyone gets a set of copies.
3. Have your DNA tested
Millions of people across the globe have chosen to do a DNA test in recent years. It’s a terrific way of discovering more about your heritage, and finding cousins you didn’t know existed. Most tests are easy – you just need a sample of saliva – and your results will be available in 6-8 weeks. Just make sure you are prepared in case there is a surprise in the results.
4. Focus on overcoming one particular brick wall
It can be daunting when there is lots of gaps in your family tree. Just like anything else, break it down into specific areas and set realistic goals. Then choose one thing that you want to discover and focus on that. Perhaps it’s to find a grave of an ancestor, or to uncover the ship on which your ancestor arrived, or fill a gap in someone’s lifeline. Targeting one thing will help you focus your research, make the most of your time and feel like you’ve accomplished your goals.
5. Reorganise your files
Scan those old photographs and name them, back up your research, labels your files properly, update software and throw out or shred anything that you no longer need. It’ll help you focus, identify areas you need to spend time on, you will be able to find things when you want them and you’ll feel like spending more time researching when what you have is well organised.
6. Interview a family member
We all make promises to ourselves that, one day, we’ll interview family members and record their memories. You don’t need a lot of tech – taking a video on your smartphone will do, or record your chat to transcribe later. There’s loads of free editing software out there if you want to get a bit more creative. Take along some questions or a photo or two to help get the conversation started, but don’t stick too rigidly to the plan – if something unexpected comes up, run with it – you may not get another chance. Make sure you save everything and create a back up file as well.
7. Join a historical society
There are more than 1,000 history and family history societies in Australia and many more around the world, so chances are there is one near you. For a small annual fee you’ll have access to a network of fellow genealogists, events and advice. Most societies have regular meetings, open days, and usually a library of local history and genealogy books. Take a look around your area – or join a society in a place your ancestors lived – sometimes local knowledge of where records are stored that are not generally open to the public can be invaluable, especially when you are researching from a distance.