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  • Writer's pictureDevon Noel Lee

6 Simple Ways to Jumpstart Your Stalled Genealogy Research

Did you know that professional genealogists often find their research getting stalled and need a jumpstart? It's true. So what are we to do to get out of the rut we're stuck in? I've discovered six simple things that help me get my family history mojo back.

My genealogy research projects and interest have stalled in the past two years. Last year, I planned to complete a scrapbook for my mother-in-law, write about William Townsend, my Civil War Ancestor, and work on extending my Townley lines.

However, my mental health has not faired well with being cut off from friends and family members, moving to a new state, and so much more. As a result, I lost my mojo until I remembered these six simple steps to restart the fire.

1. Pick a Project

One of my biggest problems is not realizing that there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything my ambitious mind wants to accomplish. Additionally, I've learned that I become hyper-focused on one project at a time. By contrast, Andy can have multiple projects going at one time and make moderate progress on each. However, even he has to limit how many projects he's working on at one time. Which project management style do you have?

I recommend picking only one or two projects or research questions.

However, write down all of your possible projects and research questions and keep them in a memorable and safe place. Once you have all of your ideas written down, you free your brain to focus on the one or two projects that are your focus.

I like to pick two projects but decide which one is more important than the other. That way, if progress on the top priority project stalls, I can work on the second priority until the first can move forward again.

2. Determine the Tasks

Review what you've already accomplished to reignite the fire in a project.

  • For the scrapbook, I have the photos organized and placed on page layouts.

  • For the Civil War Ancestor, I've written about his birth, marriage, and part of his service and injury.

  • For the Townley project, I have created a spreadsheet that identified all the Townleys living in Essex County, New Jersey, in the early 1800s. I have linked each person to a FamilySearch profile. I have recorded all the land record reference information into a spreadsheet. I had started reviewing each and noted which documents pertain to the master list of Townleys.

  • For my Colorado Four Generation project, I have established the research question of, "who are the parents of Louella C Shreve, born 22 June 1889 in Colorado?"

While I share these possible projects, I have only selected two to tackle this year. If I finish those two, I'll tackle the next two. Regardless, now that I have reviewed where I'm at in the project, I need to determine the next steps and make a plan.

For a writing or scrapbooking project, the next steps could be content editing, researching for more details, or finalizing the project for publication.

  • For the scrapbook, I need to find a way to share the page layouts with my mother-in-law. Last year, the way I thought would work didn't. So, before moving that forward, I have to solve a sharing problem.

  • For the Civil War Ancestor, I need to write about life after the war and his death.

For research projects, we should be using a research plan. With that plan, we should identify the records we need to investigate to answer our research questions. We should also be recording our notes or writing conclusions about our discoveries.

↪️ Are you unsure what records you should search next?

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3. Make Your Goal Visible

Have you made New Years Resolutions but failed to keep them more than two weeks after making them?

Last year, my family posted our goals in our dining room, but truthfully, the writing wasn't large enough for us to remember. In the end, one of five persons achieved any of the goals we recorded.

However, for the year leading up to my 40th birthday, I had the goal of getting in shape to be Catwoman for Halloween. I made a calendar check-off chart to record the days I exercised. In addition, I had an assessment chart to measure my weight loss and muscle changes. I also had a picture of a Cat Woman to remind me of the costume I wanted to wear on October 31st. This goal was incredibly successful.

Sadly, I need to restart that goal again now that I'm finally more stable on my leg after my surgery. But I need to figure out what physically fit woman I want to dress up for Halloween to motivate me to achieve this goal. Any ideas?

By sharing these goals, I want to emphasize something important.


I neglected to make my scrapbook, writing, and genealogy goals visible last year. Unfortunately, this neglect led me to start the year off making significant progress and then stall out in March. This year, I will post a picture of a finished scrapbook in the two places I work the most in my home. I'll also give myself a deadline. I think Mother's Day is enough time, but it all depends on my mother-in-law. So, maybe Christmas.

I'll also make a mock-up of the Civil War Ancestor's book cover. Then, I will post a picture of that on my wall next to the scrapbook.

I'm not sure what checkboxes I will make, like the fitness goal calendar. But I'll come up with something. But the giant, visible reminder will go a long way to reminding me that I might not necessarily want to watch a replay of Poldark Season one until I've worked on my goals.

4. Learn Something New and Try it

Sometimes we're stuck because we need to learn something new and try it out. For instance, perhaps we need to know how to:

Whew! What a list. All of these topics link to previous blog posts and videos. Be sure to check them out. Add to your list something you don't know how to do. Then go try it out. That might be the ticket to board a faster-moving research train.

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5. Make Dates With Yourself

If something is important, you put it on your calendar. My children's doctor's appointments swim practice, and church activities make it to the calendar. My lectures and video releases have space on my calendar.

Do you know what didn't have space on my calendar last year but did in prior years when I was more successful in accomplishing my goals?

I hope you guessed, time to work on my genealogy projects.

This year, let's schedule dates with ourselves to know when we want to work on a project. Of course, things may come up, and we must move that date to another time slot. But, don't be a no-show to your dates. I mean, if you set the alarm to work out at 5:30 am, and you stop the reminder but don't take action, you're as bad as the date who stood you up. Don't do this with your genealogy dates, either.

Keep your promise to yourself by showing up to your genealogy date, ready to make some progress.

6. Ask for Help

Sometimes we're stuck because we don't know the next step. Or we don't know how to do the next step, and it requires a lot of time or skill to accomplish it.

Don't be like a stereotypical male who doesn't stop and ask for directions when lost. Likewise, don't be like a stereotypical female who doesn't ask for help with home or family when they need it most.

The most successful people know what they don't know and ask for help when needed. Some ways to ask for help can be:

  • Brainstorm with a genealogy buddy about what to search next

  • Watch a lecture about obscure records

  • Ask a family member to help with a project

  • Hire professional service providers to tackle a challenging research project or write and publish your family history project.

Speaking of hiring a professional, if at any time you would like the assistance of an experienced heir hunter or forensic genealogist, check out our friends over at Legacy Tree Genealogists. and tell them Devon Noel Lee referred you.

If the Serenity Prayer can help people recover addictions and afflictions, perhaps a Genealogy Serenity Prayer could be.

God, grant me the serenity to accomplish the things I can do,

the courage to recognize things I cannot,

and wisdom to ask for help when needed.

May you progress in your projects today and every day as you follow and do these steps to jumpstart your genealogy research.

More genealogy tips:

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