The Genealogy Do-Over: To Do Or Not To Do, That Is The Question

In December 2014, noted genealogist Thomas MacEntee announced that he would be leading a genealogy do-over, a chance to set aside your genealogy database and start again, hopefully not making the same mistakes that most, if not all of us, have made particularly when starting out with research into our family’s histories.



At first blush, it sounded to me like thoughts I have had about the things I would change if I could live my life over again. “If I only knew then what I know now!” 

I even thought that I could see traces of a genealogy ’12-step- program’: admit your obsession, recognize your past name collecting habits, learn to research your genealogy within acceptable genealogical standards.

Starting over is very tempting! In May 2012 I indicated that I was going to give it a try – and I did – with mixed results. After decades of genealogy research and education, the ‘new’ database that I started looked good. All facts about my ancestors were properly entered and documented with primary sources. But I stopped out of frustration.

The more I have thought about the current genealogy do-over initiative, one that admittedly thousands are following, the more I see as a good skill building opportunity. Thomas has laid out a sound genealogy research plan for the ‘do-over’ group. He has built in sufficient flexibility to allow participants to personalize their plans and share innovations.

I have decided to follow the initiative but not actively participate. My reasoning for this decision is simple: it is in my estimation not good use of my time. 

The database of my ancestors (and for clarity, the database includes my wife’s family) contains 16,788 individuals today. I freely admit that because of past genealogy ‘sins’ there are errors in the data and not all sources are cited. There are in too many instances, sources cited but very poorly.

I’m working on fixing those errors, little by little, each and every day when I find the time to work on my own family research. I also enjoy that every day I can find something to fix which usually leads to new research clues and greater depth in understanding the lives of ‘those upon whose shoulders I stand.’

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