A couple of months ago, when I was first starting this blog, I wrote a post about how I was changing my focus for a while and actually setting aside any “new” research on my family history to focus on properly documenting and citing the facts that I had already found. I have to tell you that the change in focus has been not only incredibly rewarding but also a huge challenge.
As I’ve gone through the stacks of sources and information that I already had trying to make sure things are accurately recorded, analyzed and cited, I have found information that I missed early on which has opened up whole new avenues to research. While it’s been exciting to find the information that I missed the first time I looked at a particular source, finding those nuggets has occasionally made it very challenging for me to maintain this new focus and not run off to do new research. Can you imagine finding a piece of information that will very obviously help you get past a road block that you’ve had on one particular line and setting that information aside to research later? (I actually failed to maintain focus on that one because it lead me to the ISTG website that I wrote about last week.) For the most part, I have been able to maintain my focus and keep documenting and citing the facts that I already have, but these new nuggets have me just itching to start doing new research again.
The unexpected side of this new focus is that I have started to educate myself a great deal more on the “technical” side of genealogy – citations, documentation, methodologies, etc. As an amateur family historian, I will confess that I never really thought that the technical side would be that important to me, but as I have gotten deeper and deeper into the process, I have found that there is a lot I need to learn. I’m currently reading through Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills and I am thoroughly enjoying it because it is opening my eyes to so much that I didn’t really know before. (I admit that I do get some odd looks from others when I explain that it is sort of like reading through the Chicago Manual of Style for genealogy but with WAY more information and a much better read.) My next book is Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones, and I am probably going to end up reading that one simultaneous to this one simply because they go so well together. I’ve also been doing a lot of blog reading, attending webinars and joining several Facebook and Google+ groups to help learn from others.
My point in all of this is that through changing my focus, I have found that I am moving much more toward a professional attitude toward my genealogy research. I don’t know that I will ever publish my research (though it is a definite possibility) or even consider the idea of doing genealogy for others, but the process of educating myself and adding the “professional” discipline that I lacked early on in my research has been amazingly rewarding and I highly recommend that other amateurs like myself do the same. You will be doing a favor for not only yourself, but to others in the present and future who may read your research.