10 Genealogy New Year's Resolutions for 2012 You Can Keep!

by Thomas MacEntee | Jan 2, 2012

Thomas MacEntee

The end of one year and the beginning of another is often a time for reflection. Most people ponder breaking bad habits or making improvements in their lives. Have you considered making changes to your "genealogy life" - looking for ways to improve your research or perhaps expand your knowledge?

There are many ways in which you can shake up the way you currently do things, but also try something new. Here are 10 resolutions you can try for 2012 and all of them are fairly easy to achieve:

Backup Your Genealogy Data

Making sure your research data, documents and images are secure is the first resolution because it is the most important. Do not put this one off! How many times have you heard about others losing a flash drive with all their research data, or having a hard drive crash?

Keeping a resolution to back up your data - genealogy data as well as other data - is a simple 3-step process:

  • Create a backup plan. Writing down a plan makes the process of securing your data much easier. Review all the places your genealogy data lives - don't forget Internet favorites and bookmarks, scanned photos and documents, and your research database. Then decide on a backup method - options include an external hard drive, burning to a CD or DVD, or using an online system like DropBox or Carbonite.
  • Backup your data. The initial backup process will take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours depending upon the amount of data.
  • Set a backup schedule. Commit yourself to backing up your genealogy data on a regular schedule. Once a week or once a month - whatever works for you. Also consider a method that performs automatic backups for you so you don't have to worry about a schedule.

For more information on backup plans, methods as well as tips and tricks, check out the data backup resources at GeneaBloggers.

Attend A Webinar

While webinars really took off in 2011, you'll see them only become more popular in 2012 and beyond. Why? Two words: convenience and variety.

  • Convenient: webinars are convenient for both those who attend webinars as well as for speakers and those sponsoring the webinars. You can be part of a webinar from your home or office at almost any time of the day and from any part of the world. And what if you can't attend the live event? Many providers offer a recorded version of the webinar that can be viewed at your convenience.
  • Variety: The range of subjects covered by webinars is often the same as you would find at a major genealogy conference. Topics include research strategies, specific ethnic groups or geographic locations, technology, brick wall strategies and more. And the speakers? Many of the big names you find at other events are now offering their presentations through the webinar medium.

To view a list of upcoming webinars, check out GeneaWebinars.

Join A Genealogy Society

If you don't already belong to a local or national genealogy society, consider joining one in 2012. Why? Many genealogy societies offer resources and services that can help you expand your research and your knowledge. Some of these resources are even available online in a members-only section. In addition, most societies offer monthly meetings with guest speakers focusing on a variety of topics.

And don't forget that a genealogy society doesn't have to be in your backyard for you to join! If your ancestors migrated from another part of the country, think about joining a far-flung society even if you can't attend meetings. You'll still be able to tap into the resources including newsletters, quarterlies and research databases.

For a comprehensive list of genealogy societies, check out Cyndi's List.

Publish Your Family History

With the many self-publishing options now available, there 's no reason you shouldn't put your research into a printed format to share with family, friends and other researchers. Check out sites like Blurb, CreateSpace, Lulu or Stories To Tell to see how easy it is to create your own book, calendar or other printed item.

Worried about your writing skills? Don't be! There are a variety of sites and blogs that can help you improve your writing skills and offer writing prompts. For example, check out Better Writing Skills.

Connect With Other Researchers

Your ancestors didn't live solitary lives - they were part of a community. So as a genealogist, why should you? Besides joining a genealogy society (see above), use message boards and social media to connect with other researchers.

GenealogyWise is often called "Facebook for genealogists" and offers a variety of ways to connect including groups, message boards and chat rooms. Also consider using Facebook to expand your genealogy network. Do this by searching for other genealogy groups and societies around a common interest. One example is RootsWeb: an entire Facebook community has emerged with RootsWeb fans as members. They post news items, new resources and more to the Facebook group. Check them out on Facebook.

Attend a Genealogy Conference

When thinking genealogy conferences, don't just consider the large national events such as RootsTech, the National Genealogical Society Family History Conference or the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference. There are many local events such as one day workshops or weekend conferences that you can attend. The best way to find these events is to follow local societies on Facebook or do a search on Google.

Participate In An Indexing Project

One way to learn how certain record sets work and how they can be used, is to help out with the indexing process. What is involved? Very often when a set of records like a census is digitized and made available online, the text needs to be converted to a searchable format. With handwritten records, this process cannot be automated easily. This is where volunteers come in - they read each line and transcribe what they see. The results are then captured and placed in a searchable database for other researchers to use.

The 1940 U.S. Federal Census Project (the1940census.com.) is one such project where your skills, and skills of thousands of others, will be needed. The 1940 US Federal Census images will be hosted right here at Archives.com and made available for free on April 2, 2012. Sign up now and also see if your local society has organized their own indexing group focusing on population schedules from your local area.

Get Out! Visit An Archive Or Library

Recent statistics show that a majority of beginning genealogists perform most or all of their genealogy research online using sites like Archives.com. With a high convenience factor and a wide range of resources, online research can often lead to the perception that almost everything I available online.

The truth is that there are more resources that have not yet been digitized and they are waiting for you to get out and find them. Locate a local FamilySearch Center or archive or library. Check in with the staff - they are there to help you succeed. Chances are you'll not only find new information about your ancestors, but you may even be able to network with other researchers in person!

Interview A Living Relative

Here's another resolution that you should not put off until later in the year: sit down with a living relative and conduct even just a basic interview. Besides the basic questions about how and where they grew up, ask them about their own parents and grandparents. Gather names, dates and places.

A good technique is to present a family photo and ask if they remember the people in the photo, when and where it was taken and what was going on with the family at that time. Very often a photo will offer the prompt to get a relative to open up instead of answering a series of questions.

For a modern twist on the family interview, check out sites like 1000memories, StoryTree.Me and Tpstry. You can not only store your interview notes, audio clips and photos but some will even offer questions and prompts to ask your relatives.

Share Your Knowledge

A closed hand is good for holding onto things but not for receiving new things. Take some time to give back to the genealogy community that has given you and millions of other researchers so much.

Volunteer with your local society. Assist with a cemetery survey. Digitize and transcribe a record set. Answer questions on a message board. Teach a class on your area of genealogical expertise. Mentor a beginning genealogist.

Not only will you be making a valuable contribution, but you might be surprised at what you might receive in return.


Get off to a good start with your genealogy in 2012 - consider one, several or all of the above New Year's resolutions and shake up the way you've been doing things. By the end of the year you'll have not only a sense of accomplishment but - who knows? - you might just venture into a new area or pick up a new skill!

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