Maintaining Motivation (Module 7)

The most useful thing I learned this week about building and sustaining motivation can help me when I hit a brick wall in my genealogy research.  I learned that motivation and productivity go hand in hand, so here are a few tips to avoid online distractions:

  • use self-discipline (or apps) to stay off your cell phone
  • have a separate email account (genealogy work vs personal)
  • have an organized work environment clear of unnecessary clutter
  • use a research log to write down work accomplished and items to do in future
  • listen to music to block out distractions

Another tip that I use to keep me motivated to maintain focus and meet my genealogy research goals is to plan for a trip to an area where my ancestors live.  Before I go visit I want to have as much information as possible about my ancestor and the history of that location. Learning what resources are in the area to further check out information allows me to keep a focus on what I can accomplish now and in the future.

Searching and Researching (Module 6)

The most interesting and useful thing I learned this week came from the module on Searching and Researching. Genealogy requires that you search for factual information and then follow up with research.  Examples of how you might search for genealogy information include using:

  • a search engine like Google to find a genealogy website or blog with information about your surname, and/or 
  • a website like that provides access to databases that you can use to search for facts about your ancestor  

After finding facts about your ancestors, then the genealogy research begins.  For example, after you learn that your French-Canadian ancestor lived during the time of the Seven Years War and served in the military at Louisbourg, Nova Scotia in 1758, you begin research to find out more about the history of Louisbourg and what you can find about the role your ancestor had. 

I am in the process of researching my sixth great grandparents who were married in Louisbourg on August 28, 1758, one month after British the siege at Louisbourg.  By reading various history resources, I learned that after the battle, the British were deporting civilians by ship to France and the military prisoners of war to England.  I am curious as to how my ancestors were not deported. They stayed in Louisbourg and had several children.  

I am speculating that my ancestor, Francois Bittner, may have been one of the Volontaires Etrangers, a regiment composed largely of Swiss mercenaries at Louisbourg.

  • Is it possible he was one of the deserters during the siege?
  • Did he join the British after the surrender?
  • Why didn’t my ancestors get deported?

I will do more research to see if I can find information to answer these questions.  In genealogy research, you start by making a hypothesis and then do research to see if you can find the necessary evidence to back your hypothesis. I have used this process in the past in my research of other ancestors and sometimes you make a great find and other times, you hit the proverbial “brick wall”. Ideas from this module that I will put into practice in the future include: reading, scanning, looking at, and listening to information resources to develop research questions. 

My advice to genealogists is a tip for being organized and keeping track of your information when gathering your primary and secondary sources in your research.

Experiment with citation management tools, like Zotero, to see if this helps you keep track of your research resources more efficiently.

Web-enhanced Viewing and Listening Strategies (Module 5)

In this week’s module, I watched the video provided by the Indiana University Student Academic Center about various note-taking methods.  I didn’t know about the Cornell method, a simple structure that includes 3 sections for notes, cues, and a summary. This is something I can use when taking genealogy notes in the future.  

I have been using Evernote for over a year to capture genealogy information and I still have so much to learn to use it efficiently. I think it is a very powerful tool to manage your notes with the ability to sync them on multiple devices. I love the ability to scan documents and photos and to do audio recordings.  The most useful thing I learned this week is a tip about emailing information into Evernote.   If you add @notebookname and/or #tagname into the email subject line, the email is automatically filed where you want it to go.  This means you don’t have to deal with it again when you go into Evernote.  

TIP: Search online for tips for using Evernote for genealogy and you will find a plethora of ideas you can use. Below are a few examples of information found on websites, podcasts, and videos:


Tonia’s Roots website: More Ways I Use Evernote for Genealogy

Cyndi’s List website: Evernote for Every Genealogist – Templates & Examples


Family Locket: Research Like A Pro Genealogy podcast


Spencer Wells TED TALK – A family tree for humanity

Learn Genealogy – Research Notes – Episode 6

Spencer Wells – A Family Tree for Humanity

As a novice genealogist, I am interested in finding out where my ancestors are from and my genetic lineage.  In the TEDGlobal 2007 Ted talk, “A family tree for humanity”, geneticist Spencer Wells explains how the Genographic Project was setup to answer two questions:

  • Do we all share a common origin? and if so,
  • How did we migrate to all corners of the globe and become the diverse population that we are?

In 2007, at the time of this talk, there were 6,000 different languages spoken by six and a half billion people on Earth.  Because the genetic code in our DNA is a historical record that provides a look into the earliest days of our species, it can provide information about where we all come from and how we are all truly connected, despite the diversity in our population on Earth today.

The video explained the Genographic Project and that our DNA indicates that within the last 200,000 years, we all share an ancestor, a single person, in Africa.   About 60,000-70,000 years ago, the human population nearly went extinct to fewer than 2,000 individuals.  But then something happened that changed human behavior – we became more social and art and language developed. Tools became more sophisticated. This change is what allowed us to survive and to start migrating around the world, leaving Africa around 60,000 years ago and reaching Australia by 50,000 years ago.  The migration continues to this day.  This video was fascinating and helped me to appreciate the information stored in our DNA.

Web-Enhanced Reading and Study Strategies (Module 4)

SQ3R is the most useful thing I learned in Module 4. SQ3R is a reading strategy formed from its letters: Skim – Question – Read – Recite – Review


In the past, I would skim and read.  But I have not been regularly asking and writing down questions. Nor have I been answering the questions after reading, or reviewing and clarifying my notes.  If I begin to incorporate the steps to Question, Recite, and Review, I am confident the SQ3R approach will help me to take better notes and gain more from my reading.  


I enjoyed trying different tools.  I thought Timetoast, the tool to create timelines, was fun to use.  I used it to make a timeline of my mother’s life for my genealogy website.


In chapter 5.3 of the College Success text, strategies for special types of texts were explained.  I currently use these strategies, not only for reading Social Sciences texts as a student but also for genealogy research.  I often read history books to obtain information about the times and places of my ancestors. The more I learn, the more I see the different perspectives and how important it is to seek out different sources and to understand the author and his or her agenda.  That is why it is important for a genealogist to read as many primary source documents as possible, to obtain firsthand accounts of the events from multiple sources.

Efficiency in the Digital Age via Google tools (Module 3)

The most useful thing I learned this week was why I procrastinate on my genealogy blogs.  I spend time on research and then draft blog notes, but I have not been regularly posting updates on my genealogy family blog site.  According to “How to Stop Procrastinating” from the Mind Tools Content Team, there are many reasons for procrastination, like if you find a task boring or unpleasant.  I am passionate about and love to spend my free time on genealogy, so that is not why I procrastinate.  I believe that my procrastination is due to my poor organization and perfectionist mindset.  I plan to do the following two things to help me avoid procrastinating and get genealogy blogs posted regularly:

  • create templates using Google sheets and documents to be more organized, and
  • be less concerned with writing the “perfect” blog.

An example of a tool that I use regularly is a Google calendar.  I recently made a Google calendar to keep track of information for two family reunions I’ll be attending on the first two weekends in August. One reunion is in Portland, Maine and the other is in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. My sister from California and my brother and sister-in-law from Colorado are also going. Since we are all in different locations and time zones, we use the Google calendar to share travel, lodging, and activity information so we can easily collaborate and make plans to spend time together. It is working out great.

TIP: Using Google documents, sheets and calendars can help you to become more organized in your Genealogy efforts.

Communicating and Collaborating (Module 2)

The most useful thing I learned this week is that when working on any group project, it is important:

  • to be organized,
  • use technology best suited for all group members, and
  • be committed to communication and collaboration that supports the team’s goals. 

Initially, I was communicating family genealogy updates to family members via email which was not productive for any of us.  I quickly recognized that, as noted in the Tips for Online Students to Work Successfully in Groups, it is important to “create a comfortable forum to communicate through”.

I determined that a blog was a more comfortable forum and created a blog to share my research findings with my family members.  But there was one problem, I was not posting regularly. I learned that if I want to get the most family involvement (as readers and contributors) then I need to commit to providing frequent postings that are of interest.

Now I will commit to posting weekly updates.   I will also add links to another website I use to capture research logs information.  This way, family members can read the blog to catch up and provide input when it is convenient for them.  And if they are interested in more details, they can access the information easily all from the blog.  The blog is the best forum for our family genealogy information sharing.

Welcome to Tips and Tools for Novice Genealogists!

Welcome to my site, Tips and Tools for Novice Genealogists

In the next two months, I’ll post a weekly tip from what I learn in my ESEPSY1159 course, to help me be more effective and efficient in online efforts related to my genealogy efforts.

Watch for these upcoming posts: