Sunday, April 7, 2013

Zen & the Art of Genealogical Maintenance


Apply to your genealogical matters :

"You look at where you're going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you've been and a pattern seems to emerge".

"The pencil is mightier than the pen.”

“For every fact there is an infinity of hypotheses. ”

“The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn't any other test. If the machine produces tranquility it's right. If it disturbs you it's wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed.”

Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

How many years have you been doing genealogy? What do you have to show for all your hard research, encased in your gedcoms programs on your computers ? Are they bundled in file boxes of notebooks and if you found time, you patiently printed out pages of your work ? This is not an article about genealogical organization; there are plenty of them out there.  I was recently inspired by Valerie Elkins Brown when ROOTSTECH 2013  live-streamed  her "gen-organization"  talk. Her motto was to give yourself a break and do it your way.

Three things that strikes me these days when I look at my genealogical life  :

1) Less is more

2) Don't be a genealogical hoarder

3)  Keep it simple.

I have been doing it various ways, for many years, rotating different methods through desktop genealogy software. Life got busy and there were more challenges in getting the research out there which became more stressful. Then I read this inspiring article written by Lianne LaVoie of "Stories of a Canadian Family":

Like Lianne, I use Wikitree all the time. I research with one tab open and make a profile in the other tab in WikiTree. Sometimes I categorize the profiles by locations. Sometimes I edit, write some biography or post a follow-through on the sources I have accessed. WikiTree is a great genealogy cloud if your hardware at home fails. I am not big on uploading gedcoms to public trees so I enter my findings one-by-one manually as I work which helps me analyze my research deeper. It's extremely convenient to access wherever I am located. It works great on my Kindle Fire when I am traveling.There are many "widgets" to view your input. I like the privacy settings, the geocoding and the printing capabilities. I can also upload images of documentation (like a free cloud). I did not mention the side benefit of other family collaborators that found me on WikiTree.

My family research is still lodged on my computer software and I will always have my spreadsheets but it's very liberating to use WikiTree to share your research. I am not going to say anymore on how WikiTree can help you but it's working for me. You can become a guest at to see if the WikiTree way works for you and then, join, for free.


  1. I was so glad when I learned to do just let go of the "shoulds" and dealt with what works for me. Very freeing! Glad you found something that is working for you. :)

  2. That is so true. It is freeing to set the " gen-organizing" in a way that suits our real lives.