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A Genealogist's Post-Vacation Checklist

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What to Do with What You've Learned
Twelve simple steps to organize what you've learned on your genealogy vacation. See how organizing everything now will save you time and effort in the future.
There's nothing like going on a genealogy vacation. It's several days of doing what you enjoy most — digging up your roots, visiting old family homes, and maybe even making or renewing friendships with distant relatives. But once you get back, what do you do with everything that you've learned?

Take Care of Data Input as Soon as Possible

  • If you didn't have a computer with you while you were away, it is important to input new names, dates, and stories into your genealogy software program as soon as possible. When the information is fresh in your mind, you are less likely to make mistakes or have trouble reading your notes (of course you took clear, concise notes, right?).

  • If you collected quite a bit of information, be sure to work in an organized fashion, creating "To Do" and "Done" piles or folders. That way, none of your notes will get lost in the shuffle, and if you have to spread your work over several days, you won't forget where you left off. You don't want to lose any of the information that you traveled so far to get!

  • This is also a good time to make back-up copies of the genealogy files on your computer. Make a copy on a floppy diskette right before you enter all of your new data, and then again after you have finished entering everything that's new. Be sure to label the diskettes clearly and store them in a safe place. You may be eager to get on with other work, but taking a few minutes to make these backup copies may save you quite a bit of heartache in the future.

  • Inputting your new data may involve revising old data if, for example, if you found new evidence about someone's birth date. When this comes up, be sure to document your change carefully, recording not only that you have now disproven an old piece of information, but the date on which you added the new data to your family tree. This will help avoid confusion in the future, especially if the old information was a "known family fact." When this is the case, someone might notice your change, assume that it is a mistake, and "fix" it by replacing the new information with the old information again. Documenting your change can help you avoid this problem.

Store Your Notes, Photocopies, and Photos

  • Once you have copied information from your paper notes into your computer, put those notes into your paper filing system. This is another task that will be much easier to accomplish before too much time has passed. If you wait too long, you may have to read through everything again before you can figure out where to file each individual page.

  • If you have photocopies of pictures or documents, or if you took pictures of old family homes or tombstones, this is also the time to integrate those items with your family history information. If you have a scanner, use it to make electronic copies of at least the most important documents (or of everything if you have lots of storage space on your hard disk!). Once you have made electronic copies of these items, you can insert them into your family tree program if it allows you to do this. It is also important to store any new photographs properly.

Share Your New Information and Tips

  • Filing and storing your new information is the first task. With that accomplished, you can start to enjoy your new family information in other ways. First, you may want to pass it along to others. If you have a family newsletter, or if you share genealogical information with other family members, let them know about your new discoveries. They will probably be just as excited to hear about it as you were to discover it. And, if you have questions about any of your research, for example, if any of the information that you found was ambiguous or contradictory, others may be able to help you out.

  • Another good place to share your information is with the museums, libraries, or genealogical societies that you visited while on your vacation. If they keep collections of genealogies and family histories, they will most likely be happy to have a copy of the work that you have done. Be sure to include your name and address on any information that you send. That way, anyone who comes across your family information will be able to get in touch with you if they have questions.

  • In addition to learning about your family, you probably learned quite a bit about the libraries and archives in the locations that you visited. This is valuable information, too! If you belong to a genealogy society, newsgroup, or message board, be sure to share information about special or unusual resources that you found, the scope of the collections, and any services that are available. Other people who are researching families from the same area will appreciate your tips.

What's Next?

  • Hopefully your genealogy vacation helped you accomplish some of your research goals, so now is the time to set new ones. Take a look at your family tree and decide what the next step should be. Do you want to continue on the same family branch or start off in a new direction? Or did information that you discovered while on vacation give you hope for a branch that you had previously thought was a dead end? Making plans will help keep you focused and make your research more productive.

  • As one of the first steps in accomplishing your new goals, be sure to update any of your queries. For example, if you have a Web page, be sure that it is up-to-date and reflects your new research goals. Also, post your new queries on the message boards. After all, advertising is one of the best ways to find people who are researching the same family lines!

  • Finally, pull out your calendar and start checking with other family members. Just when can you go on your next genealogy vacation?

About the Author
This article was written by staff.

Learn More
• Discuss this topic with other researchers
• Have a question about researching your family history? Ask an expert
How-To Article: Organizing Your Research
How-To Article: Before Your Trip — Doing Your Homework
Step-by-Step Guide: Documenting Your Sources

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