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Genealogy Goals | Our Prairie Nest
Genealogy Goals

In January of 2019, I put out the declaration that 2019 would be the year I found Great-Great Grandma Emma. After 26 years of searching for her place of birth without luck, that was a pretty bold thing to say. Especially since I did everything wrong in 2019. Here’s what we can all learn from my mistakes:

Set a Specific Goal

“Finding” my great-great grandmother meant, to me, answering… um, about a bajillion unanswered questions. While it mostly came down to wanting to know where she was born, I wasn’t specific about that. “Finding” someone is hardly a goal in genealogy, because we’re always seeking someone or something, a fact, a story, proof, looking to fill in gaps in someone’s life… It’s a lot to do and take in, so having a well-articulated goal can help you focus your efforts. Um, something else I didn’t do.

Focus Your Efforts

If you have a specific goal or objective, it’s so much easier to focus your efforts. Otherwise, we might approach our research in a haphazard manner and waste time and energy. That specific goal will allow you to narrow your focus to the places you need to look – certain cities or towns, repositories, and more. How are you going to keep track of all of that, though?

Have a Plan

I didn’t have a plan for Emma. Beyond my bold statement to anyone who happened to read it, I was operating on sheer stubbornness. That can be fun for a little while, but it’s not productive in the long run. A plan based on your goal will go so much further.

Where have you looked? Where do you think you should look next? What records have you obtained? Which records are still out there? Whether you’re a spreadsheet person, listmaker, or plan in some other way, do craft something that allows you to make notes or check off a task. Finally, make sure you’re sticking to the plan with some accountability.

Track Your Efforts

Accountability doesn’t have to be public, such as with blogging or social media posts. Though that can be fun and add an extra layer of motivation, the real accountability should be to yourself. The beauty of having a plan is that you can also add a tracker to check off the things you accomplish, make notes on what you found or didn’t find, and keep track of the dates of research, repositories visited or databases searched, and more.

Don’t do what I did with my great-great grandma, which was basically throwing something at the wall and seeing if it stuck. That’s not the most logical or efficient way to get things done. Did it work? Heck yeah, it did! On December 4, a little discovery based on a suggestion from a NEHGS Research Consultation led to me cracking the case wide open on December 13, 2019! Somehow, I did it. I met my unspecific, unfocused, unplanned goal with a couple weeks to spare before the end of the year.

Would I suggest the same route for you or myself again? Maybe, if you’re feeling adventurous. 😉 So much in family history research seems to come down to timing and/or serendipity, anyway. But I’d like to think that we can help those things along with a little smart productivity.

We Partied Like It's 1999 | Our Prairie Nest
We Partied Like It’s 1999 (2019 edition)

I have never been “a New Year’s Eve person.” Our normal thing was to stay up until midnight – if possible – and play Vigilante 8 on the Nintendo 64. It just sort of became our thing. Other than that, I’d get all worked up about writing out goals. Resolutions, rarely, but goals, always. That was enough for me, because I’m more of an action-oriented person than a “let’s celebrate the change of the Gregorian calendar!” sort of gal.

To me, the celebration was in making an action plan for productivity. Super exciting, I know. This year, I decided to give actual celebrating a try. I’ve been giving more attention to personal and family time lately, especially in light of various events in the fall of 2019. I’m all about making every moment count and choosing the path that’s right for me and my family.

So, without any further (somewhat heavy) ado, I give you our New Year’s Eve 2019!

We started off with Countdown Bags which I learned about by chance. When I decided to put in the effort to make New Year’s fun, while still relaxing at home, I turned to Google for ideas. Countdown Bags sounded like exactly what I wanted – something I could do inexpensively, that would give us something to look forward to hour after hour, while trying to reach that magical midnight hour.

Disclaimer: I am not a creative person when it comes to crafts and things to do with and for children. It’s just not in me. But I know what I like to look at and do, and I can do pretty much anything if there are instructions or lists of suggestions. So I started with pretty chalkboard New Year’s printables (you’ll see them below) from Catch My Party and the nifty clocks from The Idea Room.

As for what went into the bags, I hit up the dollar store and grocery store for:

  • Easy, pre-packaged crafts
  • A small activity book
  • Small toys
  • Noisemakers
  • Photo booth props
  • Happy New Year headbands
  • A shiny silver pen
  • Fortune cookies
  • Hershey Kisses
  • Other assorted candy

There were other things I wanted to include, but forgot, like slap bracelets and glow necklaces. But, all in all, I kept the purchases to about $20 for 8 fun surprise bags that kept my family curious about what they would find next. I used index cards to write a note in each bag, because some had activities instead of or along with treats.

We started at 5 p.m. by opening the first bag, which had a little activity book to keep my daughter busy while my husband and I made tacos. As a side note, I love the idea of tacos for New Year’s Eve! They’re fun and easy to make, and leave plenty of room for snacky foods, too. Normally, we’d pair them with rice, but we didn’t this time. We decided just the tacos were enough, because I put out some party food after dinner. I think the baby carrots, celery, broccoli, baguette, cheese, crackers, dressing, and sparkling grape juice cost about $20, as well. And this is only a small portion of it. Why spend $20 on a premade, store-bought platter when you can just do it yourself? We had fun walking by the table and picking up munchies throughout the night. I also nagged everyone to keep hydrating with plenty of water. Best way to stay awake and energized!

While my husband was working on the tacos and I had time to spare before putting together the lettuce, cheese, olives, and taco sauce, we put on some 90s music and tried some silly selfies.

Yeah, I’m not wearing makeup, even though I worked a normal day, and I have no idea where my daughter got the random lei that you see me wearing, but who cares? We were home doing our own thing and the party was just beginning.

It was fun to open bag after bag, hour after hour, and see my family’s reactions. They were delighted to find each and every item, especially the photo booth props. I had no idea my husband could be such a ham!

My daughter was all about stroking her new mustache. Well, she’s about to turn 7 a few days after New Year’s, so I guess it was time she grew one! Also, if you like my shirt, I bought it at The Jean Marie Boutique.

We got a kick out of our fortune cookies. My daughter’s fortune was especially appropriate.

I figured everyone would be getting tired by 9 p.m., so that was when we opened the bag that instructed us to choose a family game. It could be anything – good old fashioned charades, Mario Party, Uno. We chose Forbidden Island and it seemed like “Waters Rise” cards were just attracted to me last night. So we lost, but it was fun, as always!

When midnight rolled around, we were all somehow still awake. I don’t know if it was dancing around the house to 90s music from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. that did it, laughing until we cried with the photo props, or all the snacking. But we wore our Happy New Year headbands, blew our noisemakers, and looked outside to see if we could spot the random fireworks people were setting off.

We fell into bed pretty grateful that the time had come. Was it the most “productive” New Year’s Eve of goal-setting and planning? No. Was it fun? Oh, yeah. I would definitely do it all again.