Friday, February 11, 2011

Pick A Direction or How Do You Stop Chasing Squirrels

I admit it. There I am, diligently transcribing or researching in a particular direction when suddenly I spot an interesting target, much like my dogs when we are moving briskly along in one direction down a trail when out pops a squirrel. Pandemonium! The chase is on! Adrenalin is pumping. Everything else is forgotten. We have to take pursuit.

Research has to be a mix of serious concentration of effort - sticking with a course of action even when it seems to go on and on - as well as fun jaunts that present themselves along the way. The trick is not to lose sight of your goal, where you've been, and where you still need to go.

I've been working on using cemetery transcriptions to add information and people to my Homer pioneer database, which I just updated online from my Legacy Family Tree database. I have transcriptions in Excel for the Atwater and Glenwood cemeteries. I already have all the heads of households entered from the1800 and 1820 census records. At this point I am using the hypothesis that people buried in Homer cemeteries once lived in Homer (I know that won't turn out to be true for everyone, but by carefully sourcing all entries we can piece that information together later). So, I have been adding death, birth and burial information to the database -as well as people - by going through the transcriptions. In some cases I am picking up relationships to spouses and children.  Thank you again to those volunteers who put transcriptions online! I color code the lines in Excel after I finish with that individual to keep track of what I've completed. At this time, I don't work with individuals born after 1890, or individuals who died as children unless the transcription indicates who their parents are and the parents are already in my database. I may be able to include these others later. I usually work on this when I am watching television because it gets a little tedious after awhile otherwise.

I try to keep a log of all other research avenues I want to travel, people I want to contact, and places I want to go.  Writing them down sometimes allows me to go back to sleep when I wake up at 3AM with an idea, and reminds me of the fun I am going to have in the future which is helpful when the current project takes a long time.  I will get to chase those squirrels someday and perhaps some other folks will show up to help.

As logical as those systems sound, they don't work all the time.  For example, I started with the Atwater cemetery, but then I saw a surname that I had spotted elsewhere in an interesting context, so I started looking at some other sources.  And then I looked at the Glenwood transcription, and added some entries from there.  Now I am bouncing back and forth between them, and I want to look into some of those interesting occupations I found in the business directory (see previous post), and I just got a digital copy of early biographies of individuals in Cortland County, and if the snow ever subsides I want to spend a Saturday at the Cortland County Historical Society, and ... darn squirrels.


  1. Fascinating idea - I have done a bit of research in some very small towns/villages in Newfoundland. Perhaps there is a one place study in my future.

    Your blog is well laid out and a joy to read. I especially love the "squirrel" post - that sounds like me some days. I think you might be new (I saw your blog mentioned with new ones) - so welcome and I will enjoy following your journey.

  2. Thanks for sharing your blog; and I am wondering if I should create a blog for my own one place study?