Reflections on Slow Genealogy

DelugeThis blog reached its 8th blogiversary milestone during the past week. It seems appropriate to post on a topic that has been on my mind for many months.

In recent times it seems I’m sometimes enjoying family history less, rather than more. On reflection, I think this is because I feel like I’m caught in a research tsunami or a whirlwind that leaves me tossed and turned and lacking direction. So much information is being released on almost a daily basis, that it’s far too easy to bounce from one record to the other, one site to another and one family to another.

I love being able to do more research, at a distance, at any time, but the ready access to online resources makes it all too easy to be reactive rather than pro-active. Back in the day I was much more likely to focus on particular research problems, not always to do with one family, and brainstorm possible solutions then pursue (and peruse) the relevant records. The pace of research made it easier to be more conscious of the process as well as the information discovered.  These days I feel more like a bee in a bottle randomly smacking against the walls.

It may well be that this problem is peculiar to me and others manage their time and research in a more structured way. No BSO’s (Bright Shiny Objects) for them, no getting lost in Trove. However, I suspect I’m not really alone in this battle of prioritisation.

We’ve heard of Slow Food and Slow Travel and I’m going to try to implement some Slow Genealogy this coming year. What will be my challenges and how might I cope with them?


There’s so many opportunities for learning in this online world and I really need/want to structure my time to review past Legacy Family Tree Webinars and watch new ones. They’re great value especially if you get a subscription when they’re on sale.

Down Under’s triennial Congress 2018 will be held in Sydney in March and I’m looking forward to learning from others, and sharing a little about Irish research. The trick is then to implement what I learn when I get home!


DNA is a whole whizzbang world of discoveries. There is just so much learning attached to the process of matches and ascertaining where the families link. This seems to be especially difficult with Irish ancestry where the records cause so many problems. I feel I have a mountain still to climb to come to terms with this whole process. Facebook pages like Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques are must-read to learn how others are approaching these challenges.

I’ve been lucky that relations have kindly tested: some matches are completely obvious in kinship, others remain a mystery. Nevertheless, I still want to think about who might test to solve my “brick walls” like the origins of my 2xgreat grandfather, James Sherry aka McSharry. He stubbornly refuses to be found.


With the rise and rise of Facebook as a genealogy learning and sharing tool, time has to be allocated to keeping up with new sites, programs and strategies. Then there’s building friendships and networks with genimates far and wide, who I’ve met through my blog, seminars or at Roots Tech.

I’ve progressively disengaged myself from Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ or my brain will fry.

Feedly remains on my iPad but I find I follow blog posts more through bloggers’ notices on Facebook. I feel guilty that I no longer comment as much as I used to, or that the comments appear on Facebook rather than their blog, which will have a wider readership.

My friend and genimate, The TravelGenee, introduced me to Pocket which has been helpful for articles and posts to be read later or retained for future reference. This has been a double-edged sword as I could lap the world a few times while reading, and still not catch up.

I also need to read through past genealogy emails and add them to my Evernote account so they are preserved and accessible if I have computer crashes. It’s all about creating a habit.


For the last couple of years my blog posts have been declining in number. It’s not so much that I have nothing to say but that ideas that come into my head don’t always make it into my blog. On the up side, I’ve written a couple of posts that have been on my to-do list for some time, like the story of my father’s life and work. I also made a discovery that one of my mother’s cousins, Hugh Moran, had been in a German POW camp (Stalag 344) and I learned a lot from that discovery, both in particular, and in general terms – I now have a collection of books on Prisoners of War.


This is where I really feel my lack of strategic planning is letting me down and that I’ve been blowing in the wind. Having recently been contacted by a long-lost second cousin, I’ve realised that my draft of the McCorkindale family story has been languishing for far too long, and I really need to add in discoveries I’ve made.

Similarly, the story of my Melvin ancestors needs further additions especially since I’m getting lots of DNA matches from that tree.

Meanwhile, my One Place Studies on Broadford, Murphy’s Creek and Dorfprozelten, have languished almost entirely. Perhaps I’ve just bitten off more than I can chew.

As an enormous advocate of offline research, I’m ashamed to say I don’t get to the archives or reference libraries very often at all, in fact probably less than when I lived in Darwin.

My general preference for “projects” is to work on one dedicated task at a time and this is probably why all this mental flitting about is getting me down. I like the online responsiveness but I miss the steady focus of offline research.

I also need to get back to maintaining a running “To Do” file for my research which also helps with focus.


Revisit record revisePerhaps I need to dedicate a month/week per topic/family and see if that works.

I also need to take the advice I offered in my 3Rs of Genealogy post.

A concentrated focus on some Slow Genealogy with more consciousness may help. I wonder if it will work among the competing online demands?

What do you think? Do you have any ideas?


I wish you fun in your research, new discoveries and the sound of brick walls crumbling.

39 thoughts on “Reflections on Slow Genealogy

  1. I know how you feel Pauleen. The feeling of a brain about to implode can be overwhelming. When I start getting frazzled I go back to basic principles: What is the question I’m trying to answer? What resources would help me find the answer? Where should I look for the answer? Who can I ask? Then when I end up down a Facebook rabbit-hole I remind myself to focus on the question. I ask myself: is this use of my time helping me get closer to the answer? Then I know if I’m wasting my time or not. Hope that helps :).


    1. Thanks Janelle, yes it helps. I “just” need to focus more on specific questions rather than being too reactive. Those BSOs and rabbit holes are a menace 🙂


  2. Happy new year Pauleen. I don’t think you are alone, you summed up some of my own thoughts totally. My DNA discovery is still overwhelming me and I seem to be related to everyone but I just don’t know how, social media is never ending (although endlessly fascinating), blogging has lessened because I’m too busy looking at all these new resources to find time to write and what happened to cleaning up all my paper files and digitising all those photographs. Admittedly 2017 was not a good year for health and family issues but the joy of family history was also not there and I dropped out some months ago. I’m bouncing back with a total spring clean of the study, a priority list of what I want to look at in 2018 and it will be at my own pace, not driven by others. I’m already a fan of slow genealogy and thanks for giving it a name!


    1. Thanks for your feedback Shauna! I’m sure your loss of enthusiasm was to some extent burnout from all you’ve done for NFHM in recent years. I hope your mental and physical spring clean brings back your genealogy Joie de Vivre…like me we’ve had so many good years from it and I know it’s saved my sanity on many occasions.


  3. Congratulations on 8 years of blogging.
    I think blogging itself is slow genealogy and a chance to make sense of the bright shiny objects from diverse places, ie DNA, Trove, subscription sites or the archives.
    To date for the most part I have found DNA a disappointing resource. I don’t have many cousins who have tested and I haven’t for the most part discovered anything new.
    Looking forward to new research and to documenting it in 2018.


    1. Blogging does help to get our research and discoveries coherent, I agree….just need to do more of it..I used to do better.

      I’ve been lucky that mum agreed to DNA test and that I’ve had a swag of on family test. Of course that brick wall mystery is not one of them.


  4. I love the idea of slow genealogy. The most satisfaction I have had from my genealogy undertakings this year has been through my Uni courses. I think it is because they get me to focus on one thing or aspect. Social media has been so wonderful at connecting me to people and ideas but I curse it as well because I really think it has tremendous power to distract. I think I need to be more disciplined in terms of both reading and my research; setting aside time with no social media distractions for an hour or so to really make progress.


  5. Those BSOs are killers! I got smacked square in the head with a BSO from the Holocaust in Austria back in November. As a result, I forgot everything I had planned for December, and finally finished my Christmas post today. I, too, have decided to slow things down a bit and focus on just one name at a time. New for next year? Along with a monthly autobiography post, I’m introducing cousin landing pages. I still have far too much information, and not enough time to get it all in, but at least I have a sense of direction now. This was a great reflection on where you’ve been and where you need to go. I heartily agree with you. Happy Blogoversary, and Happy New Year!


  6. Pauleen , I can relate to everything you’ve said. All so true! I have too many half done things and my desks are a mess of files and documents that I can’t find when I do need them. That is not normally me but it is scarily becoming so. Thanks for some inspiration to stop and tidy up all those loose ends. 😊

    Congratulations on 8 years!


    1. Thanks Lyn, seems we are “all” feeling some of the pressure. I tidy my desk and before I know it, things are chaotic again….sigh. Here’s hoping we manage better in 2018.


  7. Hi Pauleen – you’re definitely not alone and I love your term of “slow genealogy” – I think it might take off – hopefully SLOWLY !
    Through a lot of ups and downs in the last few years I’ve developed a formula that has worked for me.
    * Allow for PLAY time – whether it be with your own family history research or someone else’s. PLAY time often results in satisfaction.
    * Focus on REAL time but with boundaries – don’t get bogged down or frustrated.
    * If that happens, then allow more PLAY time.

    Sometimes I might end up with more PLAY than REAL but that’s OK – it does balance out and lets me move forward SLOWLY.

    Really enjoyed your blog – thought provoking.

    All the best for 2018


    1. Thanks Susie, I like your strategies. I think part of my adjustment is both of us being retired. Previously blogging and research ad become my job, now that we’re both retired and living in the Coast, play has come into it more often.


  8. This resonates with me too. it describes life in general these days. So much information piled on top of us all the time, and so little time for reflection before the next pile of information lands. Fragmentation of thinking and constant distraction by something else, so that nothing ever gets finished before it is taken over by something else. Hope you can find good ways through this jungle in the coming years. We all need to slow down, but I feel life just becomes faster and faster.


  9. Hi Paulene, my sentiments exactly! I am so overwhelmed these days with all the online sites and I have not visited my family history society or State Archives for a few years. I have so many DNA matches but no idea who, where or when they are related to me and it causes constant frustration. However, I am going to SLOW down this year and try to concentrate on just one family at a time and break down those brick walls, and just enjoy my family history again.
    Congratulations on 8 years, even though I am a newbie, I do so enjoy your blog. Best Wishes for 2018.


  10. Thank you for sharing! I am definitely in a slump with my own genealogy myself. Sometimes I get so into it that the hours fly by, and other times I simple keep my distance. I’m hoping now that it is 2018, I will pick it up again. I’m glad I’m not alone! Happy New Year!


  11. Congratulations on your eighth Blogiversary…
    as for Slow Genealogy, I’m sure we do try.. but then again, there are so many great blogs to read, so many sites to visit…so many books to read. I have just one thing written on my Calendar this year.. at the beginning of each month ..

    ME TIME.. to remind me of the following

    Maybe, not must
    Exclude anything that doesn’t absolutely need to be done

    Tomorrow is another day
    If I want to
    My choice
    Enjoy each day

    wish me luck….


  12. And I’m slow to respond to this timely post because I constantly feel snowed under. When I find something new and exciting I just don’t seem to have time to put on my dancing shoes and break into a geneajig. It’s ho, hum I’ll get back to it …and I never seem to.

    BTW – I’ll put a link to this post in the Geneadictionary.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Happy 8th blogiversary, Pauleen! This post rings so true with me… and my genie work has taken a step back as other stuff has taken more time. Inspirational New Year reading – I love the idea of Slow Genealogy!


  14. I totally agree, Pauleen. Just when I decide to do the much needed data entry to clear up the backlog of paper on a particular family line along comes Fri’s email from FMP with its collection of BSO’s and I’m distracted. I should try this year and add the new databases to my research to do lists. Congrats on your 8 years of blogging, quite an achievement.


  15. Pauleen, slow in arriving it might have been however you seen to have many fans with your slow genealogy concept. As you know already from our discussions I’m for taking the slow path especially when it gets you there sooner.
    Thanks for the mention and congratulations on eight years. And sorry about pocket invading your peace.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.