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05 January 2017

Resolve to Do More Research

This post is a follow-up to last week's "resolutions" post. I suggest heading over to read it first, if you haven't.

This post is specifically about resolving to do more research, not just more "genealogy" which involves more than just research. If you want to do more research, you need a realistic understanding of what time you have available and what else you need to do genealogically. The first post covers those topics.

Research is the fun part of genealogy (if you didn't think so, you wouldn't do genealogy at all). Failing at resolutions is awful so I want you to make the right resolution for YOU. "Do more research" just isn't actionable enough.

Here's a "secret." If you do the right non-research tasks, you'll be so excited and prepared to do research, it will happen. Unfortunately, those "right" tasks are personal to you so I can't just hand you an easy list to get you to that magic point where you make more research happen. Go read the resolutions post to start thinking about what it'll take to create an actionable and realistic "do more research" resolution.

OK, at this point you've either read the other post or you're not going to, so let's talk about doing more research.
How do you create an actionable resolution to do more genealogy research? Customize it to your situation using these suggestions.

The Key to More Research but Not the "Do More Research" Resolution

My first and last resolutions were:
  • One day a month go to one of my two favorite ancestral counties.
  • Plan a big research trip.
The first resolution is not my "do more research" resolution. It's about setting time aside for my own genealogy. Sometimes I may be able to do research but sometimes I won't. This resolution is flexible in case I want to go to another repository to research, but more about getting out of my house/office more often. I fully expect to spend some of that time doing non-research tasks like organizing and planning.

This first resolution is the key to being ready to do research once I find make the time. I'm not laying out my complete action plan to achieve my resolutions, yet. As I mentioned in the previous post, this is a terrible time of year for me to make resolutions, really. Making a flexible resolution about setting aside a set amount of time is directly related to me doing more research but not a guaranteed way to do more research.

Think about your personal situation and decide if you should be making one or two resolutions with an action plan right now. Maybe you need to do something more like what I've done, a handful of flexible resolutions that are inter-related but not sequential.

Most importantly, think about if you had the time, could you start researching immediately? If not, make sure your action plan or resolutions address this.

Making Time for Research

So why is my more research resolution so vague (I mean, where is a "big research trip" going)?

I LOVE going to the Family History Library (FHL) for about a week. I can't do all my research there, but I can do so much, it's my favorite option.

Also (and this matters to any genealogist), it allows me to devote my attention just to genealogy. There are plenty of places to work within the library and most of the time, you'll have enough elbow room if you need to spread something out a bit more. You can also stay somewhere that's so convenient you aren't wasting time on commuting.

But a week-long trip most of the way across the country is a major undertaking. It's really hard with kids. My preference would be to plan to go to the FHL for 4 or more days but I'm not sure that's reasonable.

I'm resolving to go on a big research trip not just for the research but for the focus of getting away for several days. That's what I struggle to do at home. You already know I live within an hour of two ancestral counties (and just a little farther to many more, my entire family is from north Georgia, both sides, for generations).

Access to research locations isn't my problem. My specific problem is enough time to "complete" the research process for one goal. With the time, inconvenience, and expense of a trip, anyone has to consider balancing the length of a trip with the genealogical value (even with a day trip, is it worth running to the library to look up one record, all you have time for, and then running home just in time to make dinner and getting back to that research in weeks, months...?).

So what's your problem? Can you find time but not have access to the records you need? Are you like me and can access the records but struggle to find the time to go and then get interrupted before you "finish" working on that goal/research plan? Think about why you aren't able to do more research. The answer is different for different people.

I may have to make this year's "big research trip" coincide with one of my work trips. Luckily, in 2017 I'm planning on travel for work that is to places I also want to research (but not to Salt Lake City). Your takeaway from this is to consider what "more research" resolution you're considering and how you can achieve it, even if it's by changing it.

Once I determine where my big research trip will be, that will help me focus on doing the actual prep work. I know some of the prep work will be research I can or should do before a trip. Hence, planning a big research trip means I'll be doing more research both on the trip and before.

Make Your Resolution Unique to You

With your own "more research" resolution, think about what would help you get the most from the research you do. Are you better off doing 45 minutes of solid research once a week? Are you still at a point where you could do 15 minutes a day looking for records online? If your research is more complicated, consider planning a "trip" whether it's real travel, local travel, or just going to the library to do something distraction-free you could do at home.

Getting away from distractions or interruptions for a few hours might be more helpful than frequent, but interrupted research. It's a personal decision based on where you are in your genealogy journey.

So how do you resolve to do more research in the next year?
  • Think about what your problem is. Lack of time, lack of access, lack of focus?
  • Consider the kind of time that would help. Frequent short sessions, occasional but not rare sessions of longer length, several short trips, one big trip?
  • Address collateral issues including your schedule, responsibilities, and budget.
  • Start brainstorming existing situations where you could add research (particularly trips of any type).
  • Craft your resolution. Be more specific than "do more research" but leave as much wiggle room as you feel you'll need.
You only need to make a resolution right now. Part of achieving the resolution will be the prep and planning. You don't have to lay out every step right now. Just make sure you can do prep and planning before you're supposed to achieve the resolution (your resolution might be tied to a date or just "in the next year").

If this will be a problem, adjust your resolution. If you need a long research session because your work is complex, it's OK to make your resolution to do the prep/planning/saving this year and the research next year. You will find you have some "research" to do as part of your prep.

To help you out, I've created a "Research Resolution Planner." It walks you through the above considerations and gives you a few more ideas to help you out.

Making the right resolution for your situation will result in more research, even if it's not in the way you originally thought.

How have you "made" time for more research in your busy schedule? Leave a comment.

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