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.