Procrastination is not your friend


Isaac Plunkett 1878-1942 –    my paternal grandfather

That may be true, but it is my constant companion, dogging me like a faithful puppy, then tripping me when it looks as though I may break free.


In the world of genealogy, it’s definitely not a habit to cultivate.

Too many times over the years, I have discovered a breakthrough, only to set it aside until the day I had “more time” to give it the attention it deserved. You know where this is going. When that day finally arrived, I had either lost the lead, or the source was gone (in some cases ‘gone gone’), and thus no longer able to share their information.

Rule #1 – Develop a system.

Whether it’s paper or digital, be sure to have at least a rudimentary system in place before you start collecting information. Set up a filing system to catalogue your photos, the letters and emails, and sources. Be diligent right from the start, and you can avoid the boxes of unsorted papers filled with cryptic notes.

Genealogy software isn’t a ‘must have’, and there are pros and cons. You can accomplish pretty much the same thing by using Word or Google Docs. Just set up four or five folders (Photos, Sources, Inquiries, Family) and you’re good to go.

One of the pros of using genealogy software, though, is that it is filled with how to’s and strategies for your search.

Brother’s Keeper is one of the oldest systems out there. It’s simple to use if you’re used to navigating through vertical menus, and is Windows based. It’s not tied to any search organization, which is a definite plus. One drawback is that there isn’t a Mac version, but the workaround is to switch to Windows mode on the Mac, and then launching BK. The other drawback is that it’s too bare-boned for today’s genealogist. If you weren’t familiar with DOS-based computing, Brother’s Keeper could be a little frustrating.

In the early days of researching my family tree, it was fairly easy to stay organized and on track. There are only so many ways to file a single piece of paper, after all! A segmented file case and a binder with family history sheets was all I needed. I kept them with my beautiful, portable electric typewriter, and dutifully filed away all my correspondence.

Then I latched onto the computer age and all hell broke loose. It didn’t happen overnight, but as operating systems and software updates changed, as did I. The manufacturers didn’t make it easy to upload all the information you laboriously entered into the first edition of their software – it all had to be retyped. It was hard enough the first time, so inevitably some things were left out, duplicates were made in error, and “Gee, I wonder if this product is better than the one I’m using?” I’ll just try it to compare. What? I can’t get my information out of it unless I pay for the full version? People with one track minds are to be envied, in my book.

As the years went by, not only did I have information in multiple computer programs, but I had multiple computers, too! Yes, cloud computing was invented with me in mind.

In 2016, I still have far too much information scattered here and there, but it’s far easier to reign it all in.

Here’s a great side-by-side comparison of the genealogy products that are out there to choose from

Next time: Start with what you know

Bonus tip: Did you know you can add tags and comments to your Word and Excel documents? This makes it super easy to sort and find documents related to specific ancestors or topics. Make a list of your tags and use them consistently to make searching a breeze. File > Properties > Summary. Check out the Custom tab for even more explicit ways to identify and sort your documents.




Digging up bones

isabelle laquint 9th ggrandmotherGrowing up the 2nd youngest in a family of seven, you would think I would have had the inside scoop on my family tree. Like most genealogists, however, my passion began because of what I didn’t know, which in my case, was anything at all about my parents’ lives beyond being my parents.
My curiosity was piqued in 1977, when the first of my father’s five siblings passed away. My dad was nearly 50 when I was born, and conversations between fathers of his generation and teenaged daughters of mine were usually one or two sentences, so this was an unusual night. I didn’t learn much, but I did learn that his only sister kept the family’s history in a bible.
Regrettably, the history contained in that bible was never shared amongst the family. It was my aunt who had passed away that day in March 1977; her belongings were kept by another branch of the family, much to the chagrin of my father and uncles. By July of that same year, my dad also passed away; the third of his family to do so in only 6 months.
My mother was extremely tight-lipped about her side of the family, which only spurred my longing to know more.
My foray into genealogy began with a letter addressed: “Parish Priest, Lac des Ecorces, Quebec”.  This was my mother’s birthplace, and since we were Catholic, I thought it was a good place to start.  The letter simply asked for any information on my mother’s family, and listed when and where my parents were married. It was all I had.
I can’t even describe the astonishment I felt when I opened the reply a few weeks later.  The priest had typed out both sides of my mother’s lines – her maternal and paternal grandparents – for nine generations, dating back to 1662 in France! Each couple had the date and place of their marriage listed, and even the evolution of the spelling of her maiden name was documented.
Needless to say, I was hooked.
Fast forward to 2016. Now I’ve become ‘that aunt’ who has all the family’s history. It’s not in a bible, but it’s in papers, photos, computers and ‘in the cloud’ on I’ve made connections with first cousins I had never met, and cousins of my father’s that he had never met. It’s just as fascinating to me today as it was when I opened the letter from Lac des Ecorces.
Over the years I’ve filled in the blanks of those nine generations of Courcelles and Piche marriages, and it seems that every week there’s a new discovery just waiting to be uncovered.
The advent of the internet has to be the greatest boon to genealogists, hands down. And now we have a new resource at our disposal – DNA. Coupled with programs like and, we can now find new relatives simply by adding our DNA to the database and opting to share. (We can, and I have – but that’s a story for a future post.)
If you’ve got a passing interest in genealogy, come along on my journey. I’ll be sharing the trials and tribulations of my passion for ‘digging up bones’, and talking about the fascinating world of discovering the past. I’d love to hear your comments and answer your questions about your own journey, too!
Oh, and that photo at the top of the page? That’s Isabelle Lequint … my 9 times great grandmother. She sailed from France in 1665 – among the first of the ‘Filles du Roi’, or the ‘King’s Daughters’. In 1978 her name was among those listed in that original letter from Lac des Ecorces. In 2015 I was able to discover the person behind the name, and learned the circumstances of her journey to New France, and that pivotal point in Canada’s history which was also, as it turns out, my own.
Next time: Procrastination is not your friend