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Happy New Year

   2024 is really a New Year for me.  In 2023 I hosted my final group research trip to Ireland with 30 people!  I also reduced my lecture schedule and did my final major presentation at the Celtic Connections Conference in August.  As I turn the page on my professional career, I’m now prepared to focus on my personal research.  Like the shoemaker’s child, my own research has taken a back seat to my professional work and I have some major clean up to do!😀. I had planned to jump right into my new role when I returned from Ireland, but as usual, life got in the way.  My husband had a skin cancer removed from his nose, which was minor, except it prevented him from wearing his glasses for a month…no golf, no driving.  Then his sister passed away in late November and we flew to Connecticut for the funeral.  We returned to Florida to have the final stitches removed and a week later, drove back to Connecticut for Christmas, stopping in Virginia for a weekend stay with our youngest daughter and her husband.  We returned to Florida the end of last week.  Other than taking all the Christmas decorations down (done after Epiphany) I’m ready to jump in.   Are you ready to re-focus your genealogy research for 2024?  Let me share some of my plans for the coming year which may spark some ideas for you.

Get Organized

   Easier said than done and as I look back on previous year's blogs, I write this every year.  So many family members, so little time!  I’m happy with my filing system.  If you’re not familiar with it, you can read a couple of my blogs from 2020: How to Organize Your Genealogy and Organizing Digital Genealogy Files.  Let me reiterate, my filing system works for me, but the one you use, must work for you.  If you need additional ideas, check out CyndisList on Filing Systems.  This is not a one day project but requires an ongoing effort.  Yes, I still have piles, both in hard copy (things I need to scan and digitize) and digital (on my computer desktop or filed in a generic folder with the family name).  That takes me to my next goal.


   This can be a problem for me.  I’ll have my to do list for the day and then that email will arrive with a DNA match or even better, a cousin writing and my to do list goes out the window.  I’m off chasing that BSO (bright shiny object).   

If you’ve followed my blog, you’ll know that for the past two years I’ve been researching the Johnston family (in between everything else).  There are lots of challenges and brick walls with this family and I probably could spend all of my time on it.  But what about the other families? While it’s important to focus your research we need to spread the wealth. Don't forget all those maternal wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them!  Determine what ancestor, family or locality you want to research and determine a period of time to do that research.  My plan for this year is to rotate through my families on a monthly basis.  Another benefit of this is it gives time for the brick walls on any one line to percolate and perhaps give a fresh look when you come back. We’ll see how this goes. As to the organize part, the first thing is to make sure I've filed all of the information about that family. I'll go to my paper files and clear them. Because I began my research in the early 1990s, I have a lot of paper that I no longer need. All of the census records as well as many other records are now online, so I can grab a digitized version and shred all of those paper copies. For those things that I want to save, I need to scan them and file them in my digital files. So you don't need to do this all at once, but ancestor by ancestor as you work on the specific family.

January - Johnston

February - Moughty

March - Daly

April - Moag

May - King

June - Beighton

Create a Plan

   You can find lots of blogs on my site about creating a Research Plan.  You can also find a Research Plan document here.  Keep in mind, there is a difference between researching and surfing.  You need to have a research question.  Your research question is not "find everything on the Johnston family." Your research question needs to be specific.  Take a look at my blog, What’s the Plan to understand the process, and please remember that not everything is on the Internet.  When creating your plan, look for sources that are not online and determine how to access them. This will likely require you to research the locality to see what type of records were kept and the timeframe. Make sure you are getting to the original document (or as close as possible) and not just looking at an index entry.  A database entry may give you a birth date, but the actual vital record might give you the names of the parents, including the mother’s maiden name, the age of the parents and their place of birth. If an image is not online, this will require you to order a copy of the record from the appropriate jurisdiction.


   You probably know that I’m a fan of writing a narrative on your ancestor or on the status of your research.  When I began I wasn’t big on writing. I loved to research and when I began doing client research, I would research for the number of hours in my contract, but then it would take me twice as long to write the client report...not making any money! I learned quickly that I needed to write as I went along.  I find when writing a narrative, I discover what’s missing and I can add that information to my Plan. This is a great way to start your research on a new ancestor, or to pick up on an ancestor you haven't researched in a while. Rather than disrupt the writing process, as I find missing information (or no source citation...where did that come from?) I’ll add the item to my to do list and keep writing.   Why I Think Writing is Important

Time Management

   Chasing BSOs is a big problem for me.  I can get distracted very easily.  Yet when I am focused, I tend to sit at my computer and research or write for hours.  Not good!  Sometimes I realize that it’s after midnight and I’m still working.  Worse, I’ll turn off the computer and then something will come up and by the time I get back to the research, I’ll have to spend time reconstructing where I was.   My plan for this is to block out time.  I do set my watch to remind me to get up and move every hour (even though I sometimes ignore it).  That’s important for me because of my arthritis.  Sometimes it’s just a loop of the house for a minute and a stretch.  My plan here is to set up blocks of two hours with a specific goal in mind.  I’ll set a timer to remind me 15 minutes before the end time, giving me time to write a summary of my research in my database so the next time I pick up my research I’ll know where I am.  It will also give me a chance to file the items I’ve downloaded to my desktop to keep it organized.

   I’ve spent the last 90 minutes writing this blog.  It’s time for me to take a break and go for my bike ride. I usually ride first thing in the morning, but it was 48° when I got up this morning…a little cold for this Floridian’s blood.  I’ll ride for an hour and then come back and proofread and edit this before I post it.  I’m not going to be blogging every week as I’ve done in the past, but I will blog a least once a month (possibly more often if something comes up).

   Good Luck with your 2024 plans.  Happy New Year and Happy Hunting!

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Your blog once again hits the mark. I love the idea of focusing on one family line each month and I can myself implementing this strategy as a way to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Thank you again for continuing your blog.



Happy new year, Donna! I look forward to your posts in 2024. I finally just wrapped up blogging about our Dublin trip, and during the writing process determined I had discovered the name of my 5th great grandfather, so you can take a lot of credit for helping me come to that finding. Thanks! -Kira

Jan 03
Replying to

Wow! Congratulations on identifying your 5x great grandfather. That's amazing. Happy New Year and good luck continuing your research.


Thanks Donna,

I am going to try to follow some of your suggestions. I downloaded your research plan .....AGAIN. And this time I'm going to use it. I do follow those BSO's as well. I'll those emails and spend time on them, but not go too far into the rabbit holes that they sometimes create. Happy New Year! Enjoy your retirement.



Donna, we must be sisters. I, too, plan every January for year ahead. I always look back to see if I followed the plan, smh, that BSO got in my way again. I tried that system of a different surname each month, let me know how that goes, I tried a surname for the whole year, smh, this year 2024, I have a major Genealogy trip to Connecticut (told u we were sisters) so I am planning 6 months up till my trip. Btw, I got accepted into DAR for a Connecticut ancestror, my goal this year is the supplement for another Connecticut ancestors, I want to let u know it’s been 1 yr since I retired from professional Gen…

Jan 02
Replying to

Hi Ellen, As a Connecticut researcher you're probably familiar with the law that allows genealogists who are members of a Society registered in the State to use the computers at the Health Department - Vital Records to research. I used them extensively when I was living there and doing heir research. Since I was in Connecticut the week before Christmas I made an appointment to work there (they are only open on Tuesdays, either morning or afternoon). It works for records after 1896 and up to the present. Email me if you need more information.


Thank you, Donna, for continuing to blog and inform us! I am still recovering from my fall on the trip in October but it gave me more time to research. I focused mainly on my O'Kanes/McKeowns in the past year, but organized all their files into decades of folders grouped into one massive falder before I went to Belfast! Now, I'm working on McDonnell files and folders I've collected since 2009, just as you describe. So good to know that you do exactly the same since you have been researching even longer. Good luck hunting to you as well in the New Year!


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