How to Take a Break From Your Genealogy Research

Exhausted and tired fitness couple silhouettes at sunset

In the running community, many coaches and serious runners like to, from time to time, implement a “planned break” into training.  Most often these breaks take the form of a few weeks off from running following a significant racing event. Usually, cross-training is encouraged, but any serious form of running is prohibited. The idea is that the planned breaks will give the athlete much needed mental and physical rest at an opportune time in hopes of preventing injury and burnout forcing an unplanned break in the days leading up to a competition. In my own experience as a runner, I’ve found planned breaks are key to helping me reach my running goals.

Genealogy research is no different. Sometimes, the hunt to find an ancestor or the missing piece of the puzzle can be all-consuming. We find ourselves spending what seems like every spare moment in hot pursuit of answers until one day, we are completely burned out. Our pile of research begins to collect dust and we can’t bear to look at the problem any longer.

Other times, whether we like it or not, life takes over and we must consciously take a step back (my situation at the moment). At these times it can seem like any effort outside of what is required to survive must be moved to the back burner.

As I wrote previously, since the end of March, my family and I have been involved in a cross-country move. Even though I am no stranger to military “permanent change of station” moves, this one has been particularly unique. I fully expected to be settled in our new home long before now, but here we are still living in a hotel room (reaaaaally slow internet connection) with our 2 year old and dog. It looks like by the time we do get settled and have our household goods unpacked, we will be only a few weeks away from our second child’s due date [insert panicked emoji here]. Let’s just say, beyond a little bit of work I’ve been able to accomplish on my volunteer project for Purple Hearts Reunited, I’ve done little in the way of genealogy research lately.

Whether planned or unplanned, we all need a break from genealogy research now and again. So what’s the best way to handle the time away? Well, believe it or not, a planned (or even unplanned) break from research can be super beneficial to your genealogy goals

  1. A break from genealogy  research can help you prioritize your goals.

Whether you take a break from genealogy research a result of burnout or a major life event, make a game plan for when you will return. Otherwise, whether our initial intention of not, weeks can quickly turn into months and even years away from a hobby we love.  Write down your goals and when the time is right, you will be that much more intent on accomplishing them when you return to your research.

Not only will you be focused when you return to your research, but in the meantime, you can simply begin to brainstorm about how best to accomplish those goals. Maybe you need to consider investing in some formal genealogy or language courses, or maybe you need to consider hiring a genealogy professional.

As soon as my genealogy books arrive and our family is settled in a good routine, I plan to:

a) Put the finishing touches on my volunteer project for Purple Hearts reunite. b) Check out local repositories so I can once again offer look-ups for clients. c) Organize all the research I found while in Salt Lake City (but never took the time to do so). d) Begin writing my portfolio. I don’t know how long it will take me to feel ready to  certify, but I do believe that by starting, I will better learn where I have  knowledge/research gaps.

2. A break from genealogy research can be a great time to put money away.

Like any hobby, genealogy can become expensive. Sometimes the answers to our research questions exist only in hard to obtain sources, like court records kept at the local level. We may get sticker shock at the costs required to have someone retrieve those records on our behalf, but a planned break from personal research can allow for some serious saving towards those expenses. For example, if you are not currently using your genealogy subscription sites, don’t be afraid to let them expire! You will find that not only will you save money by not paying for something you are not using, but often, the subscription companies will begin to send you special offers in attempt to get you back as a customer. When you are ready to re-subscribe, you may be able to do so more cheaply.

 3. A break from genealogy research can help you become more organized.

Chances are that you if you are burned out on genealogy research, you likely aren’t chomping at the bit to get to your files in order and your source citations written. Nevertheless, it’s a fact that good genealogy is organized genealogy. Perhaps you need to learn a new method of logging your research or bone up on your technological skills. Many genealogists speak highly of programs such as Evernote as a means to not only organize their research, but make connections between facts as well. Learning a new method or program will require an investment of time at the very least, but you may be surprised at how much such an investment can pay off

4. A break from genealogy research can be great time to give back the genealogy community.

Our current experience, education and available resources will inevitably limit the depth of our research. Yet those things can be of great value to another genealogist who is perhaps new to research or geographically remote.

Many years ago, before Facebook became popular, I was having trouble with an Irish place name. I will never forget, I sent out a call for help on an Ancestry chat board. A fellow ancestry user read my post and took it upon herself to make some inquiries on my behalf. In so doing, she solved the place name mystery. When I thanked her for her help, she simply said that she liked to help out when her own research was slow. Her simple act of kindness paid huge dividends in my research and I am forever grateful to her.

If you are interested in helping others with their research while you take a break from your own, there are any number of Facebook groups relating to genealogy research where you might be able to lend a helping hand. Here are just a few of which I am a member:

Chicago Genealogy

Sicilian and Aeolian Island Genealogy

Sicilian and Italian Genealogy

Italian Genealogical Records

Technology for Genealogy

Genealogy Translations


Thank you blog followers and new readers alike for patience as I am in the middle of this transition. I haven’t forgotten about you and hope to be posting regularly before too long.


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