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So, what is wrong with my to-do list?

26 Mar

I’ve shown you a section of my to-do list, I told you how it should work, and now it is time to explain why it doesn’t work.

When I was preparing to visit the East Sussex Record Office last week I realised that my to-do list wasn’t doing its job properly. I identified several issues with it that concerned me.

  1. Not enough information – some entries lacked the background information needed to complete them
  2. New items not added – I was surprised to find there was nothing about Finding Minnie on my to-do list
  3. Completed items not removed – As I went through the list I could see several items that had already been completed
  4. Entries with no “where” indication – Many entries on the list had no indication of where they were to be completed
  5. No record of partially completed tasks – Some entires had no indication of which sources I have searched

In short my to-do list was incomplete and of course there is only one person to blame. Me.

I really need to take better care of my to-do list if it is going to actually help me do my family history. I suppose it has been too easy to just add things onto the list without really thinking about what I actually need to do to complete them.

I have tried to keep my to-do list as simple as possible, so that it doesn’t take up too much time. There is no point in having a to-do list that takes more time maintain than it does to actually carry out the tasks upon it. Perhaps it is still not simple enough, but I can’t see how I can make it much simpler.

Perhaps it is becoming too big. Perhaps I need to split it into smaller more manageable chunks, but that does defeat the object of having everything in one place where I can easily lay my hands on it.

For now the format of my to-do list is not going to change, however I am going to have to re-visit each and every entry and make sure that it is still needed and that it has all the information that is needed to carry it out.

In the future I promise I will do my best to look after my to-do list better, to nurture it, to feed it with all the information it needs and hopefully not let it get out of hand.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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What should my to-do list do?

23 Mar

I was going to write about the problems I have with my to-do list, but first I think it might be helpful to explain what I am trying to achieve with to-do list.

The idea is that my to-do list is a list of everything I need to do in my family history. Of course there are lots of things to be done and they are not all just straightforward things such as find the baptism record of John Smith.

The way my to-do list currently works is that each entry have three parts:

  1. What I need to do
  2. Where I need to be to do it
  3. All the information I need to do it

1.  What I need to do

This could be almost anything, but some examples are:

  • Find a particular fact about a person
  • Organise some data that I have already discovered
  • Transcribe a particular record I have found
  • Order a GRO certificate
  • Photograph an ancestor’s gravestone

The list could go on and on. Also it doesn’t need to be a single task (find the baptism of John Smith), it could be many tasks combined into one task in the form of a project (find out what happened to the children of John Smith).

Initially the project would be one entry, more as a method of holding that project as an idea, until it is ready to be worked on, when it would then be split into several single tasks.

2.  Where I need to be to do it

Again this could be almost anywhere, either in the physical world or in the online world.

  • An archive of record office
  • On a particular website or dataset
  • In a town, village or churchyard
  • Sat at my computer

This is the part that enables me to know what things I have to do when I am at a particular record office, or when a particular website has a special offer/free access.

3.  All the information needed to do it

Basically this is enough information to enable me to complete the task without having to go back to my database/notes to find out what I am supposed to be looking for.

In the case of find the baptism of John Smith I would want to summarise what I already know, so in this case his parent’s names and the date and place of his birth.

If the baptism isn’t where I would expect it then that fact would be added to the entry and I would to try elsewhere (or eventually accept that there wasn’t a baptism or it wasn’t recorded).

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Introducing … my to-do list

22 Mar

Here is my to-do list, or part of it …

As you can see it is a simple text file, giving me the most flexibility for viewing and editing. I don’t need an internet connection or dedicated program to use it, I just need to keep it synchronised and backed up. In most cases when I visit an archive I will be working from a printed copy.

The four letter code at the beginning is a way of identifying similar tasks, such as all those that need to be carried out at a particular archive (ESRO for East Sussex Record Office) or they are GRO certificates that need ordering (GROC for General Register Office Certificate).

It is meant to be comma seperated so that I can open it in a spreadsheet and sort it if I need to (so that all the entries for a particular archives are together), but as you can see at least one other comma has found its way in. In practice it is usually quicker for me to cut and paste to re-arrange the list.

On the whole it works well, but preparations for my recent trip to the East Sussex Record Office highlighted a few issues with my current system, which need to be addressed to make my system even better. I will tell you about them in my next to-do list post.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Henry GASSON – some migration questions

28 Jul

I mentioned the other day that I have a particular fondness for my 4x great-grandfather Henry GASSON because he was the one that brought my particular GASSON line over the border from Surrey into Sussex.

It happened some time around 1830 and as migrations go it wasn’t particularly spectacular, being only about 15 miles or so in distance but even so it was quite a big jump, not just to the neighbouring parish. It wasn’t as if it was only Henry and his family that made the move, there seem to have been several other GASSON families that migrated southwards over the border about the same time, and in the big scheme of things it is just part of the gradual movement of my GASSON line westwards from Kent into Surrey and then southwards into Sussex.

Whilst I am waiting for the two death certificates I ordered to turn up I will take a closer look at this particular migration and try to answer a few questions:

  1. Exactly when did Henry and family move to Sussex?
  2. Was their move straight from Horley, Surrey to Nuthurst, Sussex or was there somewhere in between?
  3. How many other GASSON families moved from Surrey to Sussex around that time?
  4. And what were their relationships to Henry GASSON?
  5. Did any other families that moved from Horley to Nuthurst around that time?
  6. Were there any related GASSON families already living in the Nuthurst area?
  7. Can I identify any particular reason for this relocation?

My main resources for this will be parish registers and census returns, but there may also be some rate books that will help me narrow down some details. The good news is that I work in Horley and travel back home through Horsham, so can make use of the libraries in both of tho se places, although I will probably still need to visit the West Sussex Record Office and the Surrey History Centre to dig a little deeper.

Of course it goes without saying that if the distance is only 15 miles or so then it would make for a good days walk. I may not be able to follow exactly in their footsteps with any certainty, but by using some old maps I could probably find a route that would have been available to them at the time.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Time to think about Sussex Day 2011

23 May

Sussex Day 2011 is fast approaching and like the last two years I want to celebrate the 16th June in some special way. The previous years this has involved spending the day walking and visiting ancestral locations.

Unfortunately this year I will not be able to get the day off work (the 16th June is a Thursday this year), so my options are going to be rather limited in terms of walking. I still hope to be able to spend at least part of the day walking. I should be able to get three or four hours walking in after work so I will be looking for a walking route home that is a little different to my usually walking route.

With limited options for walking I will have to divert my energies to researching and writing about Sussex and my Sussex ancestors. I know I normally write quite a bit about Sussex already but I am thinking of a having a week-long celebration of all things Sussex.

If I am going to do that then I need to start planning, researching and writing now. I won’t have much opportunity to get out and do much new research between now and Sussex Day, but I have plenty of material already at hand that needs writing up, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

For the first time in a few weeks I am starting to get excited at the prospect of have something special to write about. Even if I can’t get out for a decent walk on Sussex Day I will find other ways to celebrate the day.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Setting myself another challenge

19 Feb

My research has been pretty much without direction for several months, I have been jumping from person to person and from place to place without any real idea of what I was hoping to achieve.

It is about time I introduced some focus back into my research, but the problem has always been too much choice. There are just so many lines to pursue and relatives to chase that I have struggled to make a decision, until now.

Over a year ago now I undertook what I called my “Christmas Tree Project”, trying to identify all my 4x great-grandparents. In the end I fell short by three ancestors, but the project was very worthwhile and gave some focus to my research.

The next logical step is to move back a generation and focus on my 5x great-grandparents, all 128 of them! The good news is that I already have some details for 69 out of the 128 ancestors, but the big obstacle will be the three ancestors that it missed last time, I need to work again on identifying them before I can find their parents.

There will be two big differences this time, first I am going to give myself more time, in fact I think it might be an open-ended exercise or until I run out of ideas or enthusiasm. The second difference will be that I am probably not going to be able to print a physical copy of a family tree including all these generations, so I will have to think about putting all the details into an online tree.

I am hoping that this project will help bring back some focus to my research, I realise it will still mean a bit of jumping about from person to person and place to place, but at least there will be some method to my madness.

At the same time I shall carry on with all the other projects that I have been working on, there are still lots of things on my to-do lists that need working on, but then it seems that family historians are never happy unless their plates are overflowing with work to do.

I need another to-do list

17 Feb

One of the outcomes of my visit to two archives last week was that I needed to tweak my to-do list a little bit, but more than that I decided to answer the question that I posed a few weeks ago.

I have decided to tackle my concern with the old IGI citations in two ways. My original intention had always been to replace these entries once I had viewed the original record, so I will bring that forward and view as many of the original records as I can. For any that I can’t access (those records physically further away) I will update the source to reflect the new FamilySearch website.

Whilst I am at it, it occurred to me that there are several other indexes and transcriptions that I have used in a similar manner as the IGI, in that they would do until I could view the original records and verify them. These are mostly from the wonderful indexes and transcriptions produced by the Sussex Family History Group and the Parish Register Transcription Society and shouldn’t be a problem to verify.

The problem has been that I haven’t really worried about doing it until now. In addition to my normal to-do list I now need to create a second list, the priorty is not so high (it is after all just going back over old ground) but every time I visit an archive I should be able to cross a few more off the list. Given that I have dates and places for all these records it should be very easy to find them.

Going forward I need to remember to keep adding new entries to this second list as and when I add a new citation for one of these indexes to my family tree.

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