Monday, July 30, 2012

Action Lists - The Other Side of the Planning Process

I guess I still have research plans and task lists on my mind.  I want to discuss one other aspect that I haven't mentioned yet.

I have some lists that I call "Action Lists" for lack of any better name. (If you can think of a better suited name please share!) For me, Action Lists are ongoing, cumulative lists that resemble wish lists.  They are divided by repository (archive, library, etc). I maintain one file per location. Not all the research I do is pressing and sometimes the locations are far enough away that I put off the research until I have enough to warrant a trip. 

I create Action Lists for places like the Norfolk County, Massachusetts Probate Court, the Norfolk County, Massachusetts Registry of Deeds and the New England Historic Genealogical Society.  The difference between these Action Lists and Research Plan Task Lists is that they contain items from multiple projects.

My Action Lists typically contain several columns.  The information listed includes such items as name, date, town, file number and project. It helps me to find the information I am looking for and identifies the use or recipient of the information.

Here's a portion of one I created and used this spring (click to enlarge):

As I work my way through pulling the files and scanning or photocopying the information, I check off the item on the list as completed. No there's no specific column for that. I just put a big check mark on the side.

Some of these are rainy day lists.  When I have a change in schedule and I need to shift gears quickly, I don't need to think about what I should do. I simply determine where I want to go research and then I print off my in-progress list for that location and get the research done.

Of course, this only works with only non-time sensitive information. However, if I need to rush into Boston for a project, I can toss in the rest of my accumulated list as well.  That way I make even more efficient use of my time.

This, clearly, is very streamlined. It's not a plan. It's an action list of items that need to get completed and it allows me to keep track of multiple projects.  I know it is a simple list but that's my style. I like to keep things as simple and as clear as possible.

I imagine that all professionals have some sort of list like this when they leave the office to do research in the field.   Non-professionals could also use a list like this, particularly if you are researching multiple family lines. Instead of listing a project your could list various surnames.

Lately, I been revealing a lot about how I work! I hope it is helpful or at least gives you some ideas that can be adapted to your own research. If you have any suggestions for how I can improve my system please let me know.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

When to Start a Research Plan

I was lying on the beach the other day with my eyes closed trying to enjoy some much needed vacation time with my family. While I lay there my mind kicked into high gear and started to process some recent genealogical research I had been working on. With nothing else to aid me but my memory, I sorted through what I knew and what I needed to find out.

I have a certain process for starting a genealogy project. I wonder if your steps look anything like mine.

When I start a new research project typically the first thing I do is a quick fact finding mission. First, if the time period allows, I dive into the US Federal Census records.  That, at the very least, will give me minimal information between 1790 and 1940.

My goal with a quick fact finding tour is not actually to do genealogical research. Research, to me, is intentionally going forward to find facts that related to my research target, recording the source and then analyzing what I have found and seeing how it impacts what I already know.  The fact finding tour, on the other hand, is like browsing a book. I just want to get a sense of what is ahead of me.

Diving into the census records gives me a idea of how many records will be available for a particular person or family. I'll discover if they came from a large family or a small one. And I'll be able to tell if they moved around a lot or how recently they came over from the old country based on birth locations. It will also give me a sense of how many other people there are of that time frame with the same name in the same general location. Combined together these clues give me a sense of what direction I should focus my efforts.  If the information gathered is minimal and the effort looks particularly challenging then I might do a broad wide-open search on or

Next I process the clues that I have found.  I can do this anywhere - on the beach, in the shower, in the car.  This is the seed of my research plan. I think about what I have learned and what information is missing. If I have noticed large gaps I start to process in my mind alternate record sources that could provide me with the same information.  If I can't think of any then I will make a mental note to use some sort of research guidance such Ancestry's Red Book, the FamilySearch Wiki or the online card catalog of a repository local to the project.

When I am done with the mental process, the "thinking it through", is when I sit down and write a research plan.  I create a master research plan which is a "brain dump" of all the specific tasks I think will lead me to the answers that I need. I note the task, the source or sources of information and where I can find the information. Also, at this time I access the various forms of research guidance to get the specifics of where I can find the information I need if I don't know it already.  It all goes into my research plan.

Once I have finished my research plan, phase one anyway (it may change as I find new information) then I am ready to begin my research.

Does your process look anything like this? If not, how to do you go about starting a research project and when do you create your research plan?  My way isn't necessarily right. It's just what works for me.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Outside Voices

I was sitting on my back deck not too long ago enjoying the summer weather when voices from next door strolled across my yard.  They were greetings from a contractor, a husband saying goodbye to his wife and instructions to the kids before going in the pool.

Have you ever noticed that outside voices are different than inside voices? It must be something about the echo or vibration as it passes through the air and distance. Outside voices take on a magical quality and transport me back in time.

Hearing outside voices immediately take me back to childhood summers. Times of listening to radio broadcasts of baseball games while working in the yard and hearing Mom yell across the neighborhood to call the kids to dinner.

Most of the time you don't even see the people whose voices you hear.  Yesterday I was sitting on a deck overlooking a beautiful river scene when the outside voices passed by. They were of laughter, splashing and paddling. Voices enjoying a summer kayaking excursion. I didn't know the people but the sounds brought back my many happy days of kayaking on the river in the sun.

If you need some inspiration for writing down your own childhood memories, sit down outside and wait for the voices to drift by. The familiar voices of the present will soon have you thinking back to the voices of your Mom, Dad, aunts, uncles and grandparents.  The re-awakened sound of their voices in your head will return you to your early years and the memories will start pouring in.  But don't just listen to them. Enjoy them and write them down.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Follow-up on the Research Plan webinar

I was delighted that so many people turned out for yesterday's "Plan Your Way To Research Success" webinar.  For the middle of summer I was surprised that we nearly reached the 1,000 seat maximum limit.

Geoff Rasmussen, the webinar host, got on early and chatted with some of the audience attendees.  One was from Colorado, one from England and another from Australia.  The Australian was up at 4am to hear the webinar thanks to the time zone difference. Now that is devotion to genealogical education!

My goal with yesterday's webinar was to convince genealogists about the benefit of research plans and to encourage using them with their research projects. I was carefully trying to weigh providing an in-depth talk while trying not to scare people off at the same time. I hope I succeeded.

Many people asked about the research plan forms that I used in the webinar.  I had included them, both sample filled-in ones and blanks, in pdf format in the handout on the CD.  Many people requested them in MS Word format so that they could use them electronically and alter them for their own needs. The GOOD NEWS is that I was able to get the MS Word format to Geoff so those will now be available on the CD version as well.

For anyone who missed the webinar it is available on the Legacy Family Tree website to view for FREE for the next 10 days.

Here are the relevant links:

If you decide to buy a CD you can use the coupon code "success" to get a further discount on the price. The code is valid through Monday, July 23, 2012.

Let me know if you have any questions about anything you heard on the webinar. I'd be happy to address any questions on my blog.

Thanks again for tuning in yesterday!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Have You Signed Up Yet?

I know it's the middle of summer and we've got other things on our mind like BBQs and fishing (or at least I have).  In the midst of all our fun there's still time to catch a new tip or two about genealogy.

Next week I'm giving a webinar called

"Plan Your Way to Research Success"

It's free so why not spend an hour with me?

Here are the details:

Title: Plan Your Way to Research Success
Sponsor: Legacy Family Tree
Cost: Free!
Date: Wednesday, July 18, 2012.
2:00 PM Eastern (U.S.)
1:00 PM Central
12:00 PM Mountain
11:00 AM Pacific
6:00 PM GMT

Monday, July 9, 2012

Lesson Learned: Be Careful Making Assumptions

I have to re-visit my previous post and write about one more example from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's A Midwife's Tale. It represents a theme that recurs for me over and over in genealogy.

Be Careful Making Assumptions

Typically this theme plays out when I am traveling with my father and we are discussing our brick wall immigrant ancestor, William Edwards.  There are many gaps in William's life story and my father likes to fill them in with assumptions.  That leads inevitably to me saying, "What do you base that on?" and we descend into a brief family squabble from that point forward.

That seems fairly harmless in the big picture, although it's frustrating for me. I suspect that my father derives some boyish pleasure from winding me up like that every time.  Yet assumptions can take on much more serious implications in our research.

Take for example the case of a mother and baby dying within a week of the birth.  We look at an event like that and logic tells us that the pair likely died due to complications from the birth. Come on, fess up! You've thought that, haven't you?  I know I have.

I will be more careful with such thoughts going forward.

In A Midwife's Tale, Ulrich describes exactly such an incident on page 44. Martha Ballard delivers a healthy baby to a healthy mother in "an uneventful" birth and yet both mother and child are dead a few days later.  Martha was bewildered by the turn of events but chalks it up to "Providence."

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, on the other hand, has the benefit of hindsight, knowledge of modern medicine and Martha's full diary to help her place this event within the proper context.  It is Ulrich's belief that the mother and child died from a symptom-less form of scarlet fever.  An epidemic of the fever was raging through the village at the same time that the mother and child died.

Now let's stop and think about how we normally proceed with our research.  We check vital records, church records and Bible records among others to help us learn about births and deaths.  We don't usually have a diary, such as Martha Ballard's, to provide details of the event when it happened.

When we discover, verify and cite the information in our notes do we ever stop to say, "Why?" Why did this person die on this date? Were there any extenuating circumstances? Was there a storm, a war, an epidemic?

Typically, we don't.  We don't take the time to go beyond what we need to verify family connections.  Even though Elizabeth Shown Mills regularly encourages us to dig deeper into our ancestors lives.  Colleen Fitzpatrick is another person who has written about digging into the "Whys."  She has looked at epidemics when trying to understand the death of her ancestors.

If you're just starting out in genealogy it's not practical to take the time to dig deep into a broader social context for every event in our ancestors' lives.

So what are we to do?  The only clear answer is we need to work seriously on not making assumptions, no matter how harmless they may be or how logical they seem. Unless we can concretely say that a mother and baby died due to complications from childbirth we should avoid saying it.

Ulrich, through her diligent research, has taught us this lesson well.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Would Sponsorship Work for Me?

The other day I wrote a post called "How Do Y'all Manage to Go to Conferences All the Time?"  Lynn Palermo at the Armchair Genealogist had a great response entitled "Eliminating the Costs of Your Next Genealogy Conference." 

Her post had many creative ideas1 including using sponsorship as a way to cut down costs.  Yes, sponsorship.  Lynn got very creative with sponsorship, even stepping out of the realm of genealogy.  One of her sponsors for a previous conference was a jewelry maker. (You'll have to read the post to see how she pulled that off and what she did in return.)

Lynn suggested, to me and all others wishing to cut down on costs, to consider sponsorship as an option.

I'm open to the idea of sponsorship but I'm not sure if it will work for me or not. Where would I fit in?

First off, I want to attend lectures when I go to a conference. That might conflict with a sponsor who is looking for representation in their booth.  I wouldn't mind doing stints in a booth but I wouldn't want to miss talks by Elizabeth Shown Mills or Tom Jones to do it.

I wouldn't mind being a sponsored speaker but that's a whole other ballgame and usually reserved for people who work for a specific company or contract with one.

Lynn got very creative by being sponsored by a jewelry maker.  I think that is awesome but I personally don't wear jewelry (except for rings). 

My focus is on New England genealogy, house histories, brick walls and cemetery research. A company that fits that bill is the New England Historic Genealogical Society but they've got a full staff of people they send to conferences so I doubt they would need another one.

I haven't worked with too many brands. I like to write about things that I really believe in.  I want to ensure that my voice stays authentic.  So I am very careful about what I will write about.

There are brands that I adore - Adobe and Apple.  They are awfully big brands and don't really have a historical bent.

Clearly I'm going about this the wrong way.

I do think there is a fit somewhere with me and sponsorship. Perhaps I just don't know myself well enough to be able to see who would be interested in sponsoring me. I'm going to have to give this a lot more thought.

Read Lynn's post and let me know what you think about the idea of sponsorship. Would you consider doing it yourself? How would you go about it? And perhaps you know my blog better than I do.  What direction do you think I could take in regards to sponsorship?

Such an intriguing topic and much food for thought!

Friday, July 6, 2012

An Incredible Piece of Evidence Analysis

Over the years I have been developing a list of essential, must-read books.  It's a short list. Some of them are genealogy books and some of them are not but they have none-the-less incredibly impacted the way I look at history and how I do research.

The first non-genealogy book that shook my world was In Small Things Forgotten by James Deetz. Now another book has joined the ranks of forever changing how I will interpret history.

A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize. I was a little mystified as to how a book about a diary could win such a prize but then I started reading it.

In A Midwife's Tale, the author deconstructs the diary to extract every ounce of relevant meaning and clues.  She sets the story against the backdrop of social context based on extensive supporting contemporary works.

One of the problems genealogists and historians have is being able to interpret the meaning of history in the proper context without coloring it with our own modern interpretation. Ulrich gently but firmly reminds every reader that hidden context abounds down to single word. She challenges all readers, through her own thoroughness, to look more closely and more accurately at original records and manuscripts. She also teaches us that it's not just about analyzing the evidence but seeing the patterns left by the original author (in this case Martha Ballard). It's about using those clues, combined with a knowledge of contemporary history, to lead to a deeper interpretation in evidence analysis.

For instance, Ulrich shows how powerfully one single word can impact the overall text and our interpretation.  Throughout the book Martha Ballard consistently refers to the male home owner when describing a residence such as "I was called to Mr Gillmans." Ulrich teaches us that we can not ignore single deviations.

Ulrich writes, "A second subplot is suggested by a clue so subtle that without long acquaintance with Martha Ballard's habits of deference, it is easily missed. She wrote of going to Mrs rather than to Mr Hussey's house, though in the same section she spoke of going to Mr Bullins, Capt Coxes and Mr Goodins." (p. 25)

It turns out that Mr. Hussey was in prison for debt.  Without the clue of Mrs rather than Mr the casual reader might not dig deeper to determine why Martha Ballard had made that exception. Ulrich then provides more details about the social conditions of the time that would put an eighty year old man in jail for debt.

In a similar situation, Martha Ballard refers consistently to Joseph North by his official title Judge North. Yet after his acquittal at trial for rape she very tellingly leaves off the title when she says, "North acquitted to the great surprise of all that I heard speak of it." (p. 126) Ulrich goes further to explain that for Ballard to make such a statement very compelling evidence against Judge North was likely presented during the trial.

These are two very specific details from the book that don't even begin to reveal the depth of analytical skill that is demonstrated by Ulrich. Her analysis narrows down to the individual word but also broadens to take in social context on many different levels.

It's this level of attention to detail in analysis that will help guide and transform the book's readers from average researcher into astute, advanced researchers.

A Midwife's Tale can be beneficial in two ways. It can be read as way to learn about social context and the world of New Englanders in the rapidly changing times after the American Revolution. Or it can be used as a guide for historical and genealogical researchers to learn how to analyze and interpret an original manuscript, to extract the story it is really telling not the one perceived by our twentieth century minds.

Regardless of what location or time period you normally research, this book will make you a better researcher if you approach it as a way to learn how to improve your research. It has made me realize that most researchers (including myself) aren't even aware of all the clues and details they are missing when they review original manuscripts.

Rarely do I ever consider a book a must-read, but this is one. Read it once, then read it again.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Summer Reading List

This spring I was actively researching the migration of New Englanders westward into New York. As often happens when you are searching for one thing you stumble upon another.  My goal was to find books New York that would explain why so many New Englanders chose to settle or at least stop in New York.  I found I needed to do a very broad search on New York history in order to find appropriate books.

It was kind of fun to see the range of book about New York history. Easily half of them were about Manhattan. They dealt with all different topics from the Nickerbockers, to Broadway and on to the Harlem Renaissance.  What really got me distracted was the wide selection of books on African Americans in New York history.

I had to put the books aside until I finished my project but now I have the summer to dive into a topic that is starting to pique my curiosity. I've always maintained a strong interest in African American history in New England. Venturing into New York City is unexpected for me but I'm really enjoying the exploration.

Here's the list of books I'll absorbing this summer. I was able to get all these books through my local library network.

New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan by Jill Lepore (Knopf, 2005).

In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863 (Historical Studies of Urban America) by Leslie M. Harris (University of Chicago Press,2003).

Harlem: The Making of a Ghetto : Negro New York, 1890-1930 by Gilbert Osofsky (Harper & Row, 1963).

Stories of Freedom in Black New York by Shane White (Harvard University Press, 2002).

Slavery in New York edited by Ira Berlin and Leslie M. Harris (The New Press, 2005).

African or American?: Black Identity and Political Activism in New York City, 1784-1861 by Leslie M. Alexander (University of Illinois Press, 2008)

Summer is short! Time for me to get reading!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Captivated by Technology

A re-creation of the communications room
on the Titanic. Decidedly old technology!
Yesterday I spent the day with my children at the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut. Yes, we saw beluga whales, touched the sting rays in the sting ray tank and tried to pick up crabs. It was lots of fun.  But what really got me excited was the Titanic Exhibit.

I will admit that I had an early adoration for Jacques Cousteau. In recent years he has been supplanted by Bob Ballard.  There's just something magical about ocean exploration. Pretty ironic for a girl who avoids sea-going vessels at all costs!  Regardless, the Titanic Exhibit, which focused on the discovery of the sunken ship, satisfied my love and curiosity for all things related to the ocean.

But the thing that really got me about this exhibit was a computerized technology display like nothing I had ever seen before.  There were what looked like two boxes, sized perhaps two feet by three feet. The top of "the box" was a computer touch screen.

When the touch screen is activated, users can tap, drag and use special mice (they're not really mice) to interact with the screen. You can touch photos to open a directory then you can view the many photos, videos or other objects inside the directory or folder. Then you can pull out one of the photos and spin it, enlarge it to any size you like, including full screen.  Multiple people can interact with the touch screen at the same time.  The only thing I can compare it to is the technology I have seen on CSI/NCIS shows or CNN during elections. But I never really knew whether it was science fiction or not. Apparently it is real!

I asked the docent about the technology and he said it was built on Microsoft Surface. The possibilities of this kind of technology sent my mind spinning.

Let me give you three specific examples from the exhibit:

1) Trivia Quiz

This was one of the directory options on the main screen.  When this option was selected a quiz came up. Up to four players could place their "mice" (these are round objects with an empty center) on the screen. The quiz would start by presenting cards with the questions for the contestants. Each person had individual version of the same cards. The cards could be enlarged by dragging, moved or otherwise controlled by each player. All the players had a limited time to answer the question which was answered by selecting an area activated on the screen around the mouse. Points were awarded based on how quickly you answered and the computer kept track of everything. Lots of colors highlighted wrong answers, right answers and the ultimate winner. Very fun, very interactive.

2) Artifact Search

When this folder was selected a photo of the bottom of the ocean floor appeared across the whole screen. The four participants (there were only four mice) used their mice to scan the screen until they "found" an artifact.  They then had to capture the artifact after which a photo was generated and collected on the top of the screen. The photo could be enlarged or otherwise moved around.  It was a fun game for multiple players that involved competition (finding the artifacts) and an educational component (learning about the artifacts).

3) Document Library

Another folder contained documents and items related to Bob Ballard personally and his journey to find the Titanic. (Did you know that the Ballard's Titanic expedition was really a cover so that he could go in and search for two missing submarines for the U.S. Navy?!! I didn't!) In this folder you could view actual documents from the expedition, opening multiple documents and enlarging them on the screen.

I was so excited by the potential of using this technology. The interactivity was incredible.  The possibilities for engaging individuals, sharing new information and linking all types of media was mind boggling.

Adapting to History and Genealogy

While interacting with these touch tables I could immediately see how it could be adapted to presentations about genealogy and history. Imagine going to a computer table or wall (like on tv) and being able to delve into one topic, let's say western migration out of New England. With the touch of your fingers your could access documents, videos, maps, census records, etc. You could arrange it all together visibly on one screen and see how they interconnect and also follow the breadcrumb trail more easily.  With the touch of your finger you can pull up exactly the items you want to view.  Imagine the games and quizzes that could engage the viewers!

This is reminiscent to me of the discussions at the 2012 RootsTech about linking genealogical records in the future. Perhaps they weren't talking about Microsoft Surface technology specifically but it's all headed in the same direction.

This technology truly is the wave of the future. I can't wait for it to become more mainstream.  I'll be waiting and watching and tracking it's implementation.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How Do Y'all Manage to go to Conferences All the Time?!

Sunday was the early bird deadline for the Federation of Genealogical Society (FGS) annual genealogy conference which is being held at the end of August this year in Birmingham, Alabama.  That was my drop deadline for deciding whether to go or not.

This time I was really inclined to take the leap and head to my first national conference. But as usual I wavered.  Finally with the deadline looming I had to gather all the information I needed to make an informed decision.

I guess I have been living with rose-tinted glasses when it comes to conferences. After pricing out the conference, the cost to me would be $1,000 minimum just for registration, airfare and hotel. After that I would need to budget for food and incidentals (yes, shopping!). I was easily looking at $1,500 for the trip.

I admit I was caught off guard by the total cost.  Perhaps I shouldn't have been.  I reeled from sticker shock!  I considered all the other things I could do with that money and all the other ways I could spend four days of my time.

I posed this question to my Facebook friends:

How Do You all Manage to go to Conferences All the Time?!

There was quite a lively discussion on facebook with over 65 comments. Several people asked me to take the question to my blog and address it with a wider audience.

So I pose it to you here.  How do you feel about the cost of national conferences? Is it worth your time and money?

I would love to attend but I question the return on investment.

Here are some loose anonymous paraphrases of comments shared:
  • Several of the commenters mentioned about using speaking at the conference as a way to cut down on costs.  (of course, this has to be planned well in advance when the call for proposals come out.)
  • Others countered that the cost of creating a lecture is never really realized, regardless of the venue never mind throwing in travel costs.
  • Some people felt the networking was the driving force.
  • Others said just accept that your going as fun or vacation and don't try to justify it.
  • Others talked about getting roommates and volunteering as a way to cut down costs.
  • A few people felt that genealogy institutes were a better investment.
  • Some felt that the cost wasn't worth it and it was better to focus on local or regional conferences.
Let me know how you feel about the cost of conferences.  Is the benefit of attending greater than the cost?  And for professionals, what business justifications do you take into account?

Let's hear what you have to say!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tips for Doing Double-Duty Genealogy

This is not my technology bag but a great
travel bag from the Monterey Public Library
Finding the time for genealogical research and exploration can be difficult with our busy lives. Being the mother of a young family makes it even more challenging for me personally.

Last fall Jennifer Shoer over at the Scrappy Genealogist blog did a great job of tackling this subject with her series How She Does It. It's well worth the read.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how I manage the find the time to do all things that I do. I thought I'd share some tips for how I get so much done.

1) Turn every activity into an opportunity

The number one reason I get so much done in my life is because I turn every activity into an opportunity. If my son has a soccer game an hour away from home I will check to see what cemeteries exist locally, what libraries or museums are in the area, when the town was founded and whether there may be historic houses in the area.

I will then allocate extra time, perhaps 30 minutes before or after, to take a stroll through the cemetery or to photograph historic houses.  Even when I'm really in a pinch I can still find an extra 10 minutes to at least to do a quick drive-by reconnaissance mission to determine whether to come back for a later visit. And yes, my kids go along for the duration. If they want a ride to their soccer game, then the deal is Mom gets some local time to do her thing as well.

I use this same technique for speaking engagements.  The locals will very likely find me in the oldest cemetery in town either before or after giving a talk.

2) Plan ahead

It is easier to take advantage of opportunities when you plan ahead. You will frustrate yourself trying to find the local cemetery on the fly without advance footwork. I know I have tried many times. It's all a matter of training yourself to think in terms of planning ahead.

First, I determine where my schedule will take me. Next, I immediately check to see what is in the area. I figure out which genealogical activity with fit in best with the time and location constraints of my personal activity.  Then I do the leg work to find out where the cemeteries, libraries or historic streets are located. Next I will print Mapquest directions, check for open times (if applicable) and figure out if it's better to make my visit before or after my other event. Sometimes I even come prepared with extra stops just in case the other options don't work out.  This let me shift gears quickly and not miss an opportunity.

3) Always be prepared

I  always carry a "technology bag" with me at all times. It contains my camera, spare batteries, an audio recorder, a wand scanner and sometime I even toss in my Flip Pal.  If an opportunity arises that I shouldn't miss I am fully prepared to capture the moment.

When I am on long trips and pass unique historic houses I base my decision about stopping on whether I think I will ever pass this way again. If it is an unusual route for me I will likely stop because either I won't remember where the house is or I won't be back again any time soon. If I didn't have my camera with me I would miss the opportunity completely.

Likewise, when visiting family or folks with relevant photos or documents it is always better to be prepared for the unexpected treasures or stories by having a camera, scanner or audio recorder handy.  It's a shame to walk away empty handed because someone wouldn't let you borrow their treasure.  You don't really need the original, you just need to think ahead and be prepared.

4) Turn down time into up time

Turn down time into up time by maximizing time usually wasted in doctor's waiting rooms, on the train/subway or at a sporting practice.  If you have a smartphone you can use that time to catch up on the genealogical mailing lists like APG and TGF and save valuable office time for actual work.  If you don't have a smart phone - no problem!  Just carry a book with you at all times and catch up on some background reading for your latest project.  Likewise, bring a pen and notebook and brainstorm ideas for breaking down brick walls, potential blog post topics, or prioritize your to-do list.

When you really think about it there is a lot of time during the day when you can do double-duty genealogy. It's retraining yourself about how your approach your day.

Photo Credit: Photo by MonteryPublicLibrary and used under the creative commons license.