Progress report: Month 1, Goal #2: locate/ sort/ file essential documents and those that ‘”took considerable time, effort and money to order or collect. Set aside for later review.”
As of April 24, 2017 (Month 4), this task is finally, almost complete for maternal & paternal lines, maternal & paternal- in-laws families, taking much longer than I anticipated. But, then, I realize that there are 500-600 people (or more) in each tree, going back 5-7 generations. Yes, not all of those people are directly related to us! My husband said, more than once, “I hope that all of this will actually help!” as I totally took over a dining room table. Son #2 has his computer on our office desk so that space isn’t currently available. I kept telling husband and sons, and reminding myself, that it was as much for those who will inherit my files as for me now. I think that their eyes glazed over more than once when I tried to describe why I was doing this! During the re-organization process, I tried to carefully review documents. I jumped ahead to Month 4 (research log) for a couple of brick walls and questions that came up. I am proud of myself that I only followed 3-4 BSOs! Staying away from those is a definite challenge!
What is a BSO? BSO stands for “Bright and Shining Object”. According to Thomas MacAntee , a BSO is anything that “can cause your research to be derailed while you lose focus on your original research goal.” For me, this has included not only those hints on the genealogy websites but a note that a town in the 1880 census no longer exists (spent 2 hours finding out more that was not really relevant to our family’s history), a 1940s newspaper clipping about a boy with our surname (turns out he was son of a 2nd cousin) and the death certificate of wife of distant relative (until 2 am tracking her parents). He recommends using a To-Do List. To-Do lists include what you are trying to find, what you have found, and what you need to find to meet your research goal. Basically, it’s a research plan and incorporates the BSO that is tempting you.
BSO example #1: Finding 1st wife of my maternal great-great grandfather, Jeremiah Tucker. According to oral family history, his wife’s name was Margaret/ Maggie Irwin.
Census records for 1870, 1880 & 1900 show Jeremiah and wife, Margaret. A closer look at 1900 census record shows that Jeremiah & Margaret have been married for 33 years or estimated marriage year about 1867. So, what’s the problem? 1870 census record – child, Lavinia, age 8 (born about 1862). 1880 census – daughter, Lanna, age 18. If marriage information given in 1900 census is correct, then Margaret is probably Jeremiah’s 2nd wife. Next item of interest already in my files, death certificate for George Tucker (age 3 in 1880) — his mother’s name is listed as Margaret Collins. Wife, Margaret, listed in 1870/1880/1900 census records died before Jeremiah, who died in 1914.
Was Jeremiah Tucker married to another woman named Margaret ?
This is definitely a BSO! At any other time, I would have gone after this immediately. But, I restrained myself . So, here is the To-Do list:
- Confirm death date & location for Margaret Tucker. Obtain death certificate.
- Confirm death date & location for Lavinia Tucker; obtain death certificate.
- Obtain death certificates for other children of Jeremiah & Margaret – William Frederick Tucker (my great-grandfather), Augusta Tucker Sanford.
- Search New York marriage records for Jeremiah Tucker and 1st wife, possibly also named Margaret, years 1860 to 1862.
During the re-organization & review process, I encountered more BSOs and was able to avoid the temptation most of the time. Frustrating? Yes, because I REALLY want to find the answer to the questions! I will discuss other BSOs and my experiences with research logs in a later blog.
For the moment, I am beginning to see the benefits of the time spent on the re-organization of my files. For each person, I can quickly scan 1 or 2 sheets of paper and see exactly what I need to find. I also have entered questions on the to-do tab in my genealogy software program. Most of these will eventually be entered on the more detailed research logs. And, future searches will, hopefully, be more focused and efficient because of time spent now.
Still to be done: complete scanning of BMD certificates sent to me from cousin. Put original certificates in archival quality plastic sleeves in appropriate notebooks.
 Thomas MacAntee, The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook. (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016); download from Amazon.com