Tag Archives: organisation

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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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
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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.
Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
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My Genealogy Goals for 2010 – How did I do?

30 Dec

About this time last year I wrote a few blog posts about what I wanted to achieve in 2010 and as we are almost at the end of 2010 (and it is a bit late to do any more about it now) I thought I ought to face the music and see if I actually achieved anything I set out to do.

The first post was 2010 to do list – sort my photos and postcards in which I described my wish to get all my photos and postcards organised and integrated into my genealogy software Family Historian.

Pass or fail? Fail – my old photos are slightly more organised on my hard drive now and I now have a process in place for recording and scanning my postcards (but only as new ones arrive) but none of the photos or postcards have been added to Family Historian.

Next up was 2010 to do list – identify my photos and my desire to put some names to the many unidentified photos in my collection and if not names then at least some dates and places.

Pass or fail? Fail – I spent a couple of months looking at one photo, which I don’t think I ever wrote about and didn’t come to any real conclusions, and that was about it. If anything I have probably added more unidentified photos to my collection, although I did manage to discover the location of one postcard this year with the help of Google Street View.

Then was 2010 to do list – spring clean my database which described several goals that I wished to achieve when it came to my database. This was largely about tidying things up, checking for errors and filling in some missing details.

Pass or fail? Undecided – I am actually still working on this at the moment, progress is slow but I am getting there.

After that came 2010 to do list – what to do with wills? in which I described the problems I have with recording all the information that can be found in a will and how I intended to overcome this.

Pass or fail? Fail – Most of the wills I have in my collection have not been fully mined for data, usually I pick out the information that interests me (names of children) and then move on to something else.

With a little irony the next post was 2010 to do list – create a proper to-do list which described my plans to create a ‘super’ to-do list, which would record everything I wanted to do with my family history.

Pass or fail? Pass – I am still using a simple text file as my to-do list and to be honest I am finding this is perfectly adequate for my needs and so simple to use and update.

Then things got specific with 2010 to do list – some actual research goals which listed several of the individuals that I wanted to pursue in 2010, this was quite a mixed bag of relatives and ancestors, all of whom seem to have had an interesting story to tell.

Pass or fail? Fail – Although I did do some work on most of these individuals I never really followed any of these stories through to their conclusion.

Finally came My New Year’s Resolution itself, to start researching my wife’s Italian ancestry. Somewhat predictably this was a major fail. I did buy a book on researching Italian family history and a kit for learning some basic Italian, but these have sat on my shelf largely untouched all year, no progress whatsoever.

In 2011 I think I will keep things a little simpler and more achievable. Most of these goals from last year are still ones I would like to achieve in 2011, but above all I need to be realistic and recognise that I don’t have the time or money (but mostly time) to do everything I want to.

Personal Genealogy Update: Week 36

5 Sep

Last week was quite a good week for genealogy. I have been finding plenty of things to keep me occupied. There has been very little structure or logic, just picking off records or individuals as the mood takes me. This is certainly not a very efficient way of work (sometimes meaning I am going over old ground again) but it seems to be working for me at the moment.

I must be careful not to fall into the trap of doing nothing whilst waiting for things to arrive. I have orders out for copies of wills and a marriage licence allegation, and the danger is that I will use the fact that I am waiting for them to arrive as an excuse not to do any work.

I have discovered a batch of Framfield marriages which I had transferred to my spreadsheet, but I have not added all the details to my database. Most of these are HEMSLEYs and I have several marriages where the HEMSLEY is not on my database. There were lots of HEMSLEYs in Framfield, Sussex and I would imagine that all of them are relations, it is just that they haven’t been connected yet. That is one job for this week, connect them all up, in particular the ancestors and descendants of Trayton HEMSLEY.

I need to get down to some scanning this week, mostly postcards, but a few other family history bits and pieces. I am going to have to think of a way of getting more postcards on this blog, also I am still thinking about creating a database of my postcards, partly for my own reference and partly to enable them to be shared easier. This is the problem with going to the Picture Postcard Show, it fills me with all sorts of ideas, which I don’t have the time to carry out.

I might also restart the research I was doing on one of the local postcard photographers. I also want to start compiling a guide for dating British postcards, mainly for my own reference because I have yet to find a comprehensive guide to the many features of postcards that allow the approximate date to be worked out.

Post-archive organisation

22 Mar

My challenge now is to get all the data I collected yesterday organised and entered into my family history software, rather than let it sit on my desk as a pile of notes, which will in turn get buried by another pile of notes and another and another….

I am not very good at this sort of organisation, sure I have the tools in place to take care of it, and it wouldn’t take long once I got started, but if I don’t do it now it will almost certainly take me a couple of months to do it. It’s not that I don’t want to do it, but inevitably something else comes up, a new database is released, an opportunity to visit another archive, an email from a distant relation. All have the potential to trip me up, and bury my notes under a pile of stuff!

It is pretty straightforward organisation we are talking about here, adding the baptisms, marriages and burials to an Excel spreadsheet and then entering the details into Family Historian, my software package. My handwritten notes can then be filed away in the relevant family folder, should I ever need to check them again.

Now why is that so hard to do? I suspect it is because it is something of an anti-climax after the excitement of doing the actual research, or perhaps it is to do with the loss of momentum which comes from returning to the day job on a Monday morning after the excitement of ancestor hunting over the weekend.

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