Spring Cleaning your Genealogy Research

In Stephen R. Covey’s best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he describes a set of behaviors common in highly successful people.  Covey calls his 7th habit “Sharpening the Saw”. 

In the book he tells the story of a man in the woods who is completely exhausted from the task of cutting down a tree.  When asked why he doesn’t stop to sharpen his saw to make the job go faster, the man replies that he was too busy sawing.  If the man had only taken a few minutes to sharpen his saw, it would have saved him hours of physically demanding labor and frustration.

This anecdotal lesson can also be applied to your genealogy research.  We are so busy pushing the boundaries on new research and pursuing the next breakthrough that we don’t have time to stop and attend to tasks that would make our job easier and the quality of our work better. 

Neglected Spring Cleaning Tasks

Just like the spring cleaning you perform on your home each year, pausing to address nagging tasks that have been put off for too long can push your genealogy research to the next level.  In this article, several often neglected spring cleaning tasks are presented that would make good candidates for your genealogy spring cleaning regiment.

Digitize Photographs

Pictures of family members are an integral part of genealogy research.  In order to use these photographs in a meaningful way, they need to be transferred into digital form.  Integrating them into your genealogy database, printing or sharing them with relatives requires them to be scanned in.  See the article Preserving Your Photo Collection to see options for digitizing your photo collection.

Organize Digital Data

For anyone serious about genealogy, it is critical to be able to retrieve documents and pictures from your hard drive quickly and easily.  If you take some time up front to setup your directory structure properly and maintain discipline in placing documents right when you get them, you will reap a big time savings over the long haul.  See the article Organizing Your Digital Data for a detailed description of one good approach.

Cite Your Sources

Many genealogists seem to have issues when it comes to creating proper source citations for their genealogy data.  Citing sources is not exactly the most glamorous part of genealogy work, but it is one of the most important components of your research.  Properly cited sources are what make it possible to locate your sources again and allow others to recreate your research, if needed.  See the article Genealogy Source Citations Made Easy for advice on how to properly source your genealogy data.

Backup Your Files

You have invested countless hours researching your family history, collecting documents, pictures and stories.  If you are not properly backing up your genealogy data, you are one hard drive crash from losing all the work you have done.  You should have at least three copies of your data at all times.  These can be located on your hard drive, thumb drives, Cds, DVDs, hardcopy or saved to the cloud.

Regardless of what time of year it is, taking a break from your genealogy research to do some spring cleaning may just payoff big dividends.  Just like the man chopping down a tree in the forest, investing a little time organizing your research can keep your genealogy on track and properly maintain and preserve all the work you have done so far.

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