Blog post

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Looking backwards, looking forwards: My genealogy year in review

This post flits past my goals for 2011, reviews my genealogy achievements for 2011 and sets out my hopes for 2012.

Looking back: 2011 goals

In 2011 I didn’t make resolutions as such, but provided a long list of long-term goals. Rather than describe my progress on each item, I will dwell on just one: Don't bite off more than I can chew!

My results on this item for 2012 is – fail. I did get some good things done, but felt burnt out by the second half of the year.

Looking back: Highlights of 2011

  • Using my first ever FHL film. At one stage I almost lived in the National Library of Australia but my archives research has been limited by distance to the appropriate archive and with small children it’s hard to even get to the library too often any more. Just getting out of the house to do some research was exciting for me and I found all the information I was hoping for.
  • The Australia Day challenge! In January I issued an invitation for other bloggers to join me in an Australia Day blogging event. I had given quite a bit of thought to the wording of the question as I was hoping to engineer a certain type of response. Yes - I had in mind the type of post I would like to read and asked questions that I hoped would deliver the goods. I was amply rewarded when 21 other bloggers posted fantastic articles – and from the feedback I got it wasn’t just me that liked the results.
  • “Opening” my research data website I have already had quite a few cousin connections thanks to the site. I think that my decision to put up more data rather than less has contributed to people who find the site actually getting in touch. This has lead to lots of new information and I have also been making an effort to gather more information about other descendants of my ancestors, so I’ll understand how my new-found cousins are connected to me.
  • A joint ANZAC Day blogging challenge with the Central Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries. Again we had a great response. I found the sad stories of the impact of war heartbreaking.
  • Meanwhile I completed three basic Australian genealogy courses with the National Institute in Genealogical Studies through the year, and have almost completed a fourth. I found that when I did just one course at a time I was wished the course was more challenging (that will come if I move on to more advanced courses, I’m sure), but when I did two at a time any unexpected life event put me in danger of not completing. With a five and a three year old, unexpected life events are to be expected! One course at a time it is for me from now on.
  • Changing genealogy software. This I did with some sadness, but it was time and I still think I made the right decision. Changing genealogy software can be quite a challenge. There is a lot of potential for data loss and general messing up along the way, but I have come through the process reasonably well and am slowing tidying up my database. I’m very happy with the querying and multimedia capabilities.
  • DNA. I have now tested with both 23andMe and with Family Tree DNA. I have not yet worked out my connection with anyone, but two of my (half) second cousins tested during the year. Aside from being interesting to see, the results supported our paper trail (phew!) and gave leads on some of our matches.
  • Giving back. I haven’t joined an indexing project or similar, but I have joined Judy Webster’s “Genealogists for Families” team on Kiva. Kiva is a site that facilitates small loans (just $25) to assist people move out of poverty. It’s hard to call this giving back as you can reclaim the money once it’s repaid, but I don’t intend to. I will reloan it to others who would benefit from help.
  • Discussions with other bloggers. In particular I enjoyed having discussions in both public and private fora with Jill Ball aka Geniaus and Tanya Honey about the use of our latest toys – Samsung Galaxy Tablets. These Android devices are bigger than a mobile phone but smaller than an iPad. I have enjoyed exchanging notes with Jill and Tanya on the genealogy (and other) uses of our toys. Keep an eye out for Jill talking about our Galaxy Tabs at Rootstech!
  • More and more Victorian newspapers appeared on Trove through 2011. This has been a goldmine for some of my families (see Bad smelling fat and putrid bones for an example) and I hope to do “more” with some of the information I’ve found and not yet blogged about. I’m still not sure what that “more” will be.

This is one of the advantages of blogging. If I wasn’t blogging I’m sure I wouldn’t be looking back on the year and seeing just how much I’ve done – and I certainly wouldn’t have the blog posts to prove it!

Looking forward: What’s coming in 2012?

  • DNA. Great excitement. Yesterday my father agreed that he would do a genealogy DNA test for me – just in time to take advantage of the Family Tree DNA sale. As he is a generation further back than me, he will have bigger matches with my cousins who have already tested and this may allow us to narrow down more matches to our shared portion of the family tree. It will also show me whether my other matches are on my maternal or paternal side, and may help narrow down the estimated generation distance of some matches.
  • Australia Day challenge. It’s definitely on again and this year the topic is… no, wait a minute, that’s another blog post… (coming soon!!)

In terms of resolutions, the main one, once again, is Don’t bite off more than I can chew! I don’t want to get that burnt out feeling again – genealogy is a leisure activity for me, after all! – and so I will be careful to avoid excitedly signing up for anything and everything.

Related to that, I also want to do a better job of planning my activities. Not necessarily to stick scrupulously to the plan, but to be able to make good use of my time when I feel like making good use of it.

As for what else, I don’t know. I will see what eventuates. Who knows what path a cousin contact or DNA discovery may lead me down.


  1. Looking forward to another Australia Day challenge Shelley.  
    Good luck with your goals in 2012.

  2. Shelley, I'm impressed by how much you accomplished, especially with the distraction of two small children! I'm glad that you are enjoying being part of the Genealogists for Families project. I've enjoyed reading your blog posts - and your 2011 Australia Day challenge prompted me to write about a 'neglected' line in my family tree. Perhaps my goal for 2012 should be to spend more time writing about my own ancestors and less time on 'research advice' articles for my blogs and Web site!