Genealogy Tips & Tricks: Learn the power of one

Learn the power of oneBy Barry J. Ewell

Focus on one ancestor, one question, and one record at a time. I refer to this as the “Power of One.” How can you simplify your genealogy research? Start by realizing that genealogy research is a project, and a genealogy project is completed one individual, one question, and one task at time.

Below, I have outlined my first genealogy research project, which is the basis of the process I follow today:

  • Choose one individual, family, or generation to focus my research on. Use pedigree charts and family group sheets to help identify problems to resolve, such as:
    • Missing information: names, dates, or places are missing.
    • Incomplete information: part of a name, date, or place is missing.
    • Unverified information: information cannot be traced to a credible source (that is, someone who would have known the information first hand).
    • Conflicting information: information from two sources does not agree.
    • Develop a list of questions and tasks associated with the project.
    • Review the list and pick the most important item to complete.
    • As I begin, I will then outline the task in detail by asking myself questions such as the following:
  • What is my goal for the task?
  • What information do I have already?
  • What resources will provide the answers I am looking for?
  • Do I have the desired information in my records already?
  • Do I have the knowledge to complete the task? If not, what do I need to learn about? Where can I find the answers?
  • Do I need help from others? If so, who?
  • Do I need to conduct Internet research?
  • Do I need to go to the library?
  • Do I need to contact another family member or genealogist?

I will then work on the task until it’s complete. Essentially I was applying the 80/20 principle, which tells us that 80 percent of our results will come from 20 percent of our inputs. By picking the most important task to work on, we’re making sure that it falls within the critical 20 percent. Also, by focusing 100 percent of our energies on this item, we’ll accomplish it much faster than we would have if we’d allowed ourselves to be distracted by interruptions—or worse, tried to multi-task and complete two or three items at once.

Related posts

Join Genealogy by Barry Newsletter