Genealogy: Focusing on One Ancestor at a Time Keeps the Work Simpler

by Barry Ewell from the Deseret News, 13 April 2013

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with doing Family History?  Feeling that there is too much to do?   We were impressed by following the “Power of One” – just focus on one person at a time! Not only is this a simple concept – it works too!  Thank you to Barry Ewall for sharing this article:

“When doing family history work, it’s important to focus on one ancestor, one question and one record at a time. I refer to this as the “Power of One.” Conducting genealogy research means finding answers to questions. When I first started researching my ancestral lines I found myself overwhelmed with questions I wanted to answer for each ancestor, such as the following: What was his name? When and where was he born? When and where did he marry? Whom did he marry? How many children did he have? What were the names of the children? Where did he live? What type of work did he do? To what religion did he belong? Was he in the military? Did he belong to any other organizations? What did he look like?When and where did he die? What was the cause of death? Where was he buried?

How can you simplify when overwhelmed by all these questions? Here’s where the Power of One is so helpful. 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 the steps I took as I worked on my first family history 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.
  • 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 firsthand).
  • Conflicting information: facts from two sources do not agree.

Then, 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 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. ”

(Barry J. Ewell is the author of “Family Treasures” and kindly gave us permission to share his article)

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