365 Ways to Discover Your Roots: January 2006

By Lisa A. Alzo Premium

Revelers around the world ring in the new year with champagne toasts and a deluge of confetti. The famous ball in New York City’s Times Square drops amid a cacophony of noisemakers and renditions (some regrettably off-key) of “Auld Lang Syne.”

Then the world makes its New Year’s resolutions. We vow to eat less, exercise more, get organized and keep a host of other promises. Maybe you don’t like the word resolution and prefer instead to “set goals.” Is one of those goals to be a more-efficient genealogist?

Perhaps, looking at the blanks in your family tree, boxes of unidentified photographs and mountains of photocopied records on your desk, you’ve said aloud, “This is the year I’ll finally break through those brick walls!” Yet even with the best of intentions, you can get off track. After all, life happens. Other things—family, work, chores—take priority, sapping your focus and motivation.

One way to stay on course is to view genealogy as a yearlong journey, finding ways to incorporate a little family history into each day. That’s why we’ve prepared a 2006 daily genealogy planner just for you. Each day, you’ll find a tip or a task to boost your research power and know-how. Follow along, and you’ll wrap up 2006 a more organized, knowledgeable and enthusiastic genealogist.


1. Pull out your calendar, study your genealogical to-do list and make your research resolutions, whether you want to take a family history class, bust a brick wall or finally get organized.

2. Formulate several goals and develop a solid research strategy for achieving them.

3. Take an inventory of your supplies and research materials. List items you still need to research more efficiently.

4. Spent too much on holiday gifts? Evaluate your 2006 genealogy budget. For tips on curbing research expenses, see the June 2005 Family Tree Magazine.

5. Take that shopping trip to an office-supply store and stock up on file folders, notepads, mechanical pencils—whatever’s on your list.

6. Drop off holiday film for processing, or upload digital photos.

7. Review notes from your family history conversations with relatives and add new information to your charts.

8. Start a research log or journal. You can download a free template (along with our other forms, some of which you’ll use later) from <>.

9. Get over those post-holiday blues by reviewing your family data for missing information. Update your pedigree charts and family group sheets if necessary.

10. It’s the 85th anniversary of the bane of genealogists everywhere: the fire that burned the 1890 census. See what parts survived at <>. Search online for reconstruction projects and substitutes.

11. Back up your genealogical data to CD or an online service such as Iomega’s iStorage <>. Send copies on CD to a relative.

12. Start a list of microfilm to order from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Family History Library (FHL) <> for viewing at a local branch Family History Center (FHC). Check each item in the online catalog to be sure it covers the right places and years.

13. File loose documents in your family history binder or file folders. Is your research filing system the best one for how you work? See Sharon DeBartolo Carmack’s Organizing Your Family History Search (Betterway Books) for organization options.

14. Make an index of what’s in each file folder and post it on the front of the folder. Create a master index, too.

15. Read what’s up in the family history world on Genealogy Blog <>, or start your own blog. See the February 2005 Family Tree Magazine to learn how.

16. This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, find out how your family may have been involved in civil rights movements. Start at the National Civil Rights Museum <>.

17. Make a list of vital records you need. Check each state vital-records office’s Web site for record locations and fees. Print out the required forms.

18. Use holiday cards and family newsletters to update your relatives’ contact information. Make sure everyone knows how to reach you, too.

19. Plan to add ancestral meaning to this year’s holiday observances. Find ideas at <>.

20. Call your local public library or state archive and arrange a tour of the genealogy department. Make sure you learn to use the microfilm reader and computer databases.

21. Create a genealogy correspondence log in an Excel spreadsheet or, if you prefer, on lined paper. List letters you send and receive, record requests, fees, dates and contact information.

22. Today’s the day to fill out all your vital-records request forms, write out checks and send them in. Record the requests on your correspondence log.

23. Set up a spreadsheet to record and track your online research. Include columns for the date, Web address, database name, ancestors researched and information you discovered.

24. Explore online message boards for your ancestral surnames and places of residence. Start with the boards listed at <>. Bookmark the ones you want to come back to.

25. Revisit the boards you bookmarked yesterday and post queries. Log your postings in your online research tracker.

26. Run eBay <> searches on genealogy plus your family surnames and the places you research. Click Save This Search so you’ll get an e-mail when an item you might want comes up for bidding.

27. Organize your genealogy periodicals in magazine holders from an office-supply store, or in a slipcase you can order on our Web site. Give extra magazines to a friend, your doctor’s office or the library.

28. Start a family history album with photographs and copies of family documents. See Scrapbooking Your Family History by Maureen A. Taylor (Betterway Books) for ideas.

29. Play a family history board game with your family. Try Family Lore <www> or LifeStories <> (look under Online Store, then Browse Board Games).

30. Find your nearest FHC. Check the phone book or use the lookup on the Family Search home page.

31.The first month of 2006 has flown by-review your genealogy progress, put up your feet and relax.

From the February 2006 issue of Family Tree Magazine.