Today, I have a confession to make. For several years now I have been a quiet member of the UGA, Unorganized Genealogists Anonymous! Today, I admit I have a problem and I am hoping that this will be the first step to rehabilitation.
What is the harm of being unorganized? There are so many shortcomings for me that I wouldn’t know exactly where to start, but if I am to be rehabilitated I must start somewhere. I feel that most of the reason I haven’t been able to keep my website and blog rolling in the last few years is because of my lack of organization!Here’s my humble attempt at explaining the problem.
THE DOWNFALLS OF BEING UNORGANIZED
Here are a few reasons that being unorganized hinders me:
- It causes me to do the same tasks over and over and over again.
- It makes it hard to find information when needed.
- It causes confusion, which is definitely not good for creativity.
- It makes it hard to share information.
- It destroys my credibility
- It leads to loss of data
- Probably the worst part, it kills my motivation!
Let’s examine some of these just a little.
I have been researching now for about 13 years. After that amount of time I should have lots of information and I really do. I never really make the “breakthrough” I could because I am always doing the same task over again. Having recently come back to my research, I am now trying to organize what I have been trying to organize for years. The best example of doing things over again is my Family Tree Maker databases. I have over 40 in one folder! Some examples of names:
- Ken’s Forbes Research 2007
- Ken’s Forbes Research 2008
- Ken’s Forbes Research Complete
You would think that the one that says “Complete” would be the one I need but that is not the case. The one from 2007 is the one that is most complete. Even that isn’t good enough. I now find myself re-entering all my data again because it is just too confusing to figure out which of these 40 to keep.
Now I also find myself going through my digital records and there are at least 2 copies of everything! Time to sort through those also.
HARD TO FIND INFORMATION
Just as it’s hard for me to find out which database I should use, it’s also very hard to find certain information. I know that I’ve download the U. S. Census information for David Franklin Spangler but I can’t find it. I have to do a search on my hard drive to find it and even then I am not successful. Why? Because I downloaded it but never renamed it and now it is sitting in a folder and called 3200567002.jpg! How in the world am I going to know that?
I also have some files that are named “David Franklin Spangler – 1900 Census”, “Birth Record – David Franklin Spangler” or “Spangler, David Franklin Death Certificate”. There’s no standard naming patterns here.
When you are trying to organize things and run across this type of stuff, it’s extremely frustrating!
The previous example shows where confusion comes in. I am trying to sort through information but I keep getting confused as to the location of it all. I know I had a marriage record for this person but I can’t remember where I put it!
I know I have entered the birth information for my new niece but what tree did I enter it in? I guess it’s time to make a phone call and get this information – again!
It’s frustrating! This is not acceptable!
HARD TO SHARE
So, I have a website and blog and my main reason for this is to share information. I want to make connections with others researching my lines!
A person contacts me, asks about certain info on my site and asks for a copy of my source. I want to share this info but I can’t find it! How frustrating is that? Not just to me but also for the person asking.
I love to share information with potential cousins but to do so I must be able to find it in a decent amount of time.
What will this person think of me now? I’m making all these assertions but I have no sources to back it up. Is that going to destroy my credibility? You’re absolutely right!
No one is going to want to come back here again. Let’s say under the same scenario I am able to give this person the info they want, sources and everything else and I do it rather quickly. What will that person say then? You know they will brag to their family about this new connection and send them my way.
I don’t care if I am the world’s smallest and most unread blog – I still want to be thought of as someone who is able to be relied upon.
LOSS OF DATA
How can being unorganized lead to a loss of data? Well, if you can’t tell from the above examples, let’s try this. Let’s say I’m frustrated with all these double files I have. I am going to get rid of them once and for all. I begin to delete them and then realize that my scan of my grandparent’s marriage license is missing.
Being unorganized has led to another loss of data!
This has actually happened to me before. Some of the items were able to be replaced, although it was at a cost. Some can’t be replaced.
The culmination of all of this leads to one inevitable ending. It kills my motivation!
I can’t count the number of times that I have tried to pick up my research and start over, only to find that after a while of searching through this mess I become frustrated and have to walk away from it. It’s not because I don’t like doing it, it’s because I created a monster, a mountain that is going to take a lot of energy to scale and conquer!
The bottom line – something’s gotta change and I am so ready to see it happen! I am devising plans on how to win this battle and I am always open to any suggestions. I’m not fool enough to think I can do this on my own. Even if nobody gives advice through comments, I will be seeking advice through searches, reading and learning!
Next, I’ll explain my plan of attack for getting organized.