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Get S.M.A.R.T. with your Genealogy Research

When digging into your family history, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the vast amount of records, documents, and other information available online and in person. That's why a focused, strategic approach is vital for success in genealogy research. If you receive my newsletter, you will already know that one helpful tool is the S.M.A.R.T. method. What is the S.M.A.R.T. method? It is a way to organize your research to achieve what you’ve set out to do - find answers about your family history. 

What does S.M.A.R.T. stand for? It means setting Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Timely goals. 

Here's how to implement S.M.A.R.T. for your genealogy research: 

First, be Specific.

Rather than having a vague goal like "research my ancestors," get specific. Pick one goal and start there. Examples could be:

  • "find the full names and birthdates of my great-grandparents" or 

  • "determine when and how my family immigrated from Ireland." 

Clearly defining what you want to accomplish keeps you targeted. 

Second, make things Measurable. 

Quantify your goals, so you know when you've successfully met them. 

If searching census records for ancestors in a specific town, set a number goal for how many relevant entries you want to uncover. Or, if you are looking for a marriage certificate, search for a date range of 20 years. 

Metrics keep you motivated!

Third, keep things Action-oriented. 

Goals should focus on actions within your control, not just outcomes

Rather than "uncover my most distant ancestor," which depends on what exists, aim to "search these international record collections for early family origins." 

Check sites and archives most likely to have relevant information. 

Fourth, be Realistic.


Be honest about how feasible your goals are considering:
  • time constraints,

  • records availability,

  • travel abilities if visiting sites and

  • other limitations. 

Building skills takes time, so don't expect expert-level research right away.

Set ambitious but reachable goals. 

Finally, be Timely. 

Give yourself target dates for completing goals based on their scope and your schedule. 

Identify what you want to complete in a month, six months, a year, etc.

Timeframes create productive pressure. 

Implementing S.M.A.R.T. goals requires reflecting on what you want to accomplish and breaking those goals into defined and systematic steps. 

These goals and steps will help you to become a successful family history detective!

Plus, checking things off your to-do list using the S.M.A.R.T. method will bring you great satisfaction as you discover the story of your ancestry!

Until next time, Happy Record Hunting!!

What are your Family History Research Resolutions?

  • I will organize my research, digital, paper, photos, etc.

  • I will write my Family History.

  • I will publish my Family History as a book or article.

  • I will organize a Family Reunion & share my findings

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