Genealogical Regrets

Randy Seaver, passing on a post on the APG mailing list, asked us what our genealogical regrets are so that others can avoid our mistakes. What would I do differently? My responses are similar to Randy’s and others who have posted replies, which should prove to any newcomers to genealogy just how essential certain things are! These are my top 3 genealogical regrets:

  • I regret that I didn’t start my research sooner. I didn’t officially begin researching until after college, but I wish I had started in high school. For one, I had a lot more free time while attending college than I did after starting a full-time job. Even though I’ve had two census releases since I started my research, and even though some things are more automated now and indexed on the internet (and therefore EASIER now), the main reason I wished I had started sooner is because many older family members have since died. By the time I figured out who some cousins were, the older folks were gone and I missed a possible opportunity to learn more from them.
  • I regret that I didn’t organize my notes better. You’ll read it time and again from many genealogists…get organized! I am what I call “slightly organized” in that I know generally where things are, but it take me forever to sort through things to find what I want. I even have notes written on scraps (a paper plate, believe it or not) that I haven’t seen fit to otherwise document. Yet.
  • I regret that I didn’t focus my area of research to one family at a time. When I first began, I used a shotgun approach…I’d fire a question or query, and if my shot in the dark hit scattered targets I’d run off and start researching in each of those directions. Well, it I guess it works, but it’s probably not the easiest or best approach. It’s certainly not the scientific method. When I found an “easy” line, I’d focus on that family and get better results in my research. But the other lines with their questions and mysteries would still draw me back, and I’d lose the focus on the line on which I had experienced some progress.

To re-phrase my regrets in the positive, I present Donna’s 3 Rules of Successful Genealogy:

1) Don’t wait or think about it…get started now. Find and talk to your older relatives while you can.

2) Find the method of organization that suits you and stick with it always.

3) Focus your research; using a systematic approach will save you time later.

What would you do differently – do you have any genealogical regrets?

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