Mothballing a family history research project

17 Apr

Having done a quick bit of work on my HEMSLEY ancestors it is now time to mothball that research, so I can carry on with my other ongoing projects. This is how I go about, it may not be perfect, and I welcome any comments, suggestions or improvements.

The purpose of this mothballing process is to get everything put away, clearing the decks, so I can carry on with something else, but leaving it in a state where it can be easily picked up and continued, from the same point at any time in the future. The process is broken down into three parts:

1.  Getting my filing in order

This pretty straightforward, make sure that everything in entered onto my family history software, and that any paper and digital files are correctly named/labelled and filed in the right locations.

For example when I am in the middle of a particular project I will have several small text files with snippets of information scattered across my desktop, most of these can be deleted once the information is entered into the family history software. Any that need to be saved for the should have a useful file name, rather than my usual “HEMSLEY stuff” or “HEMSLEY GRO bits”.

I will quite often have paper copies of census returns, especially if I need to take them to the record office or share them with a non-computer user. With these I will usually attach them behind a print of the relevant family group sheet, and file them in the relevant surname folder.

2.  Leaving  a signpost to what has gone before and still to come

In this stage I write a brief summary (usually just a text document) listing:

  • What I have already done
  • What still needs to be done
  • What I would like to find out when I restart the project again.

So in this case it would be something like:

Checked all census returns, expect 1911 for all direct ancestors back to Samuel HEMSLEY, need to find his baptism details and parents, may not be Framfield. Have found probable GRO BMD birth index entries for all children, and baptisms for all except Enorah Caroline HEMSLEY (b. 1896), these need checking against original entries. Need to find baptisms and trace parents of spouses, Caroline RUSSELL, Charlotte WREN and Elizabeth BROOKER. Caroline RUSSELL probably born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Still need to find later census images for all children and their marriages etc. Would like to do some detailed research on Gun Inn/Gun Farm, Blackboys. There seem to be several other HEMSLEY descendants actively researching the family on the internet.

That should be more than enough to get me started again when time comes to pick things up again, or as is more likely I get contacted by a distant cousin.

3.  Things to-do whilst sleeping

This may seem a little strange, when the process is supposed to be putting the project to sleep, but there are some things that need to be kept active even when the rest of the project is sleeping.

These fall into several categories, such as things that are urgent (like visiting Gun Farm and getting some photographs before it gets pulled down), things that I need to do if I get the opportunity (most of my future research will be in East Sussex but if I am researching something else in Kent then I need to look up Caroline RUSSELL’s baptism) and then there are things that I need to look out for (and buy) over a period of time (like looking for an old postcard of Framfield Church, or finding an old map of the area).

Having laid all this out I have to confess that I don’t always use it, and I usually regret it afterwards when I have to go back and pick up the pieces, or find out why I printed that particular census return, and what I did with the information on it. I have precious little time as it is and I don’t need to be wasting it on trying to work out what I have done and which of those six badly named files has the piece of information I am after.

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