Monday, September 22, 2008

Facts right under my nose

Sometimes the missing facts that we seek are right under our nose the whole time, just waiting for us to look down and discover them.

When I started researching my family, I was a Boy Scout, eagerly writing down information as given to me by my parents, my grandmother, and any other relatives that I was able to contact either by letter or telephone. I would right down the information, never bothering to give a source, as at that time I didn't realize the importance of sourcing my information. The information was the main thing, not the reliability of the sources.

As I started to input my database onto a computer, first with a Commodore 64 and Rootsoft, then a PC and FamilyTreeMaker, my database continued to grow with each line that was added. The flurry of family trees posted on the Internet helped me to make other connections, or so I thought, and I became a name collector - attaching distant family trees to my own, not considering for a moment whether or not the information was accurate.

Along the way I began to collect a lot of files - so many, in fact, that I had a 5 drawer file cabinet full of family group sheets, census record printouts, and any other tidbit that came my way. As the recognized family historian, others in the family began to send me obituaries, birth notices, etc. over the years until these drawers were overflowing. I had managed to collect much information, but because I had not developed a habit of organization along the way, it was hard to know exactly what information I might have on a family in some instances.

Adding to my dilemma was the fact that I've had a couple of computer crashes along the way that have added to my 'data loss' misery. Backup, backup, backup. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Currently, I'm in the process of going through my scans and updating my database with information that I had in my possession, but didn't input into my files. In some cases, I've found that I've spent time, money and effort researching for facts that I already possessed. For example, I didn't realize that I had information about my 2nd-great granduncle "Mike" Wright's death already tucked away in a family group sheet that I've had in my possession for 10 years, which has led me down other avenues of research I will write about later.

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