Begin With the End In Mind

Whenever folks attempt to promote doing family history or genealogy, few talk about what the end result of a particular project is. Sure there is always more family history that can be done, but for the vast majority of the people I meet, that is not an attractive incentive to participate in this genealogy.

Louise Long Brown Family Tree
A typical family tree.
If you want to do something to capture and preserve your family history, might I offer the best advice you'll ever receive?

Know What You Want to Do BEFORE You Start.

How will you know when you can stop contributing to family history and feel a sense of accomplishment if you do not know what your end goal is?

Would a runner really want to enter a race with no defined finish line? Sure, some runners would and could participate in a marathon, but many more can not. Without knowing the end goal, few would attempt to run a course because they'd never be able to start saying, "5 more miles to go, 3 more miles, 1 more mile, just to that tree... ah, I'm done!"

So before you say, "I'm going to work on my family history" and start plowing ahead, define your goals.

Ask yourself, "Why am I doing family history?" Is your answer listed below?

  • Curiosity
  • Gain admittance into fraternal organizations
  • Gain admittance into historical lineage-based societies
  • Write tribute pieces, such as eulogies 
  • Share family stories at family reunion
  • Research a person for a reenactment
  • School assignments
  • Write entries for city or county histories
  • Prove whether a family legend is true (we’re ⅛ Cherokee, or we’re related to the Hatfields and McCoys)
  • Preserve your family history for future generations 
  • Remember the loved ones who have passed
  • Religious reasons
  • Guilt, you know you should be doing this

All of these reasons are valid, no matter what anyone else says. The key is to know your reason. Why are YOU getting, or staying, involved in family history?

Once you know your motivation, you will be guided in what you want to accomplish. You will be able to focus your efforts and energies and feel a sense of satisfaction.

When you begin with the end in mind, perhaps the "Spirit of Elijah" will grab hold of you and you will start other projects for other reasons. If you are immune to the genealogy bug, you'll pursue other interests. Regardless of what happens after you have accomplished your goal, you will certainly feel like you have crossed a finish line.

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