It's that time of year again. The Christmas tree is shedding its needles, the turkey sandwiches are tasting increasingly dry, and genealogists - like almost everybody else - are sitting down to make their New Year's resolutions.
Unfortunately, by February most of us will have lost the inspiration that gripped us when the year began. Whether you set out to trace the life of that long-lost great-great-grandparent, or to once and for all substantiate aunt Dorothy's claims that you're a direct descendent of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, it won't be long before your ambitions are cast to the wayside like a Christmas sweater left discarded in the wardrobe.
This isn't how things should be. Wouldn't it be amazing if we could stick with our resolutions and see them through? Well, as it happens, MyHeritage has come up with a few pieces of advice to help you do precisely that. Systematically devised and scientifically proven, these seven tips will put some extra wind behind your sails as you leave the port of family history ignorance and drift out into the expansive ocean of genealogical discovery. Follow them, and - who knows? - you might just see your 2010 genealogy dream comes true.
1. Make your resolutions concrete. There's little point in having ill-defined, wishy-washy objectives. Resolutions such as "do more genealogy" or "spend more time reading census records" are so airy that they can be discarded as quickly as the gift wrapping is tossed into the waste basket. You've got to get specific. Do you want to find a particular character in your family's story? Do you want to trace your history back to a certain date? If you're finding it hard to pin your resolutions down to concrete objectives, you can still make some firm commitments. You could, for example, commit to a particular number of research hours every week, or days in the archive every month. Whatever it is you're planning, you need to get specific.
2. Write them down. Once you've got your resolutions clearly thought out, it's time to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard. You want something to be clear in writing so that you know it's clear in mind.
3. Tell other people. It's a lot easier to keep commitments when you have other people nagging you about them, so tell others about your plans. They don't need to be genealogists, and they don't necessarily need to know everything in detail, but let them know your genealogy hopes for this year and you'll get reminders to pursue your goals and a healthy dose of embarrassment if you don't.
4. Reward your progress. Genealogists aren't quite Pavlovian dogs, but they still like getting something back for their achievements. So why not offer yourself some incentives? These don't even have to be genealogy-related. If the promise of a new Zanussi dishwasher is what gets you fired up for more research, then allow yourself to buy one only when you've reached a particular milestone in your journey. This piece of advice can work with no.3 as well; it's a double-whammy if you tell your partner not to let you buy that new soap dispenser until you've found great-uncle Bertie's place of birth.
5. Interact with as many genealogists as you can. With today's panoply of internet research tools, it's easy to neglect the genealogy resources right on your doorstep. Joining a local family history society, or attending genealogy events, is a terrific way to keep yourself involved. The people you meet there might be the ones to help you break through your current research plateau.
6. Put reminders around the house. Sometimes it's helpful to keep prodding your consciousness with annoying reminders. These can take any number of forms - a note on your calendar, a post-it on the ceiling. And yes, if you want to buy a fridge magnet of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, that's fine too.
7. Take the first step right away. As the Chinese say, talk doesn't cook the rice. So if you've got a New Year's resolution, you should hit the ground running with it right away. All too often tomorrow turns into the day after, and the day after turns into never. If you want to fulfil your New Year's resolutions, the best time to start is today.
Good luck with your resolution-making!