Sometimes, you find inspiration in the least expected places.

In 2015-2016, I participated in a peer-guided study program for genealogists called ProGen. Most months, I knew what I was getting into and looked forward to gaining expertise and practice and feedback as I advanced my genealogy skills. But I did have lower expectations for the usefulness of one particularly short assignment, and it ended up surprising me with its enduring value.

We were prompted to create a personal mission statement for our genealogy ‘business’ – even if we were only planning to work on our own genealogy and not take clients. After much thought, I decided on this:

I want to Prove, Preserve, and Share family history. Or, as I call it now, PPaS.

I have a routine every month. About the same time I post a new blog entry here, I also set genealogy goals for the next four weeks and I look back at how I did on the previous month’s objectives. I share this goal-setting-and-review process with a couple close friends too; we inspire each other, support each other, and hold each other accountable. Keeping in mind my mission statement, each of my status reports includes an update on PPaS.

So, what exactly is it?


Prove means that I am careful to make sure that every name, date, place, and relationship I add to my tree has reliable sources: not just information from someone else’s tree, or published works that don’t tell where they got their information from. Since I’ve been doing genealogy for decades, and mostly self-taught until 2014, you probably would not be surprised to hear that some of the information in my tree actually didn’t have reliable sources.

I’m following this mission statement on all my new genealogy work. But many months, I’m also setting goals to go back and revisit parts of my family tree documented years ago, to find evidence to support those early conclusions. Some of my DNA activities fall into this Prove category too, whether it’s using DNA matches to support a hypothesis, or using DNA matches to point me to new leads to look for documentary evidence.

PaS-Preserve and Share

Preserve and Share are largely interrelated, so let me talk about Share first.

What’s the point of doing all this research, if it ends up in the recycling bin or on the curb when I am gone? Well, actually—there is a point. It’s given me a lot of pleasure, it’s helped to engage my brain on a regular basis and hopefully keep it in good shape, and it’s provided me with friendships I treasure. But I do want more. I want to leave a legacy. I want my grandkids, and the grandkids of distant cousins I’ll never know, to also learn their family’s stories. I want my ancestors—the ones I’m inspired by and the ones I’m not proud of too, the matriarchs, the ones who died too young… I want them all to be remembered.

That means Sharing. For me, it’s maintaining a public tree on Ancestry and considering whether I want to contribute to One World Trees like FamilySearch or WikiTree. It might be completing lineage society applications, which are often made available for the public to access (excluding recent generations perhaps, for privacy reasons). It might be writing an article for a genealogy publication, featuring an ancestor’s family, or the subject of a blog post. Earlier this month, I even did a Zoom Power Point presentation for my relatives on where Granddad got his unusual given name—that counts as Sharing too!

I’d like to write illustrated narrative stories about the families in my tree. I probably have eight to ten underway, each from 15-30 pages. I haven’t decided *how* to share them yet. Attach a PDF to an ancestor’s gallery in my public Ancestry tree, or upload a PDF to an ancestor’s Memories on the FamilySearch tree? Self-publish on Lulu or something else? I’m still considering options. Meanwhile, when I do my monthly status reports, I think about whether I can make some time to advance or finish one of those narratives, and I’ll add it to my goals for the next month.

Preserve started out as a mission to digitize papers and put photos and artifacts in archival quality storage options. Now, though, it’s more closely tied to Share, in that it drives my priorities. There is so much to choose from, right? Going back just six generations, I have identified 125 ancestors, not counting collateral relatives who have intriguing stories too. And some lines go back many more generations than that. If I’m deciding what to work on sharing, those one-of-a-kind genealogy treasures I want to preserve should take priority.

For example, which is more valuable re: leaving a legacy? I could complete a DAR application…. Or I could scan and transcribe Family Record pages from a Family Bible and donate them to NGS, ACPL, or another repository that keeps a Bible collection. I know which project I should tackle first. Then there are family photos, recipes, letters…. I want to preserve and share those (with extended family if not the world at large). When I set my goals, those should take priority over compiling proof of a relationship that someone else could prove with public records just as easily as I could.

Excerpt of 1942 letter written by Dell Glair, daughter of Michael Miller and Magdalena Grahling, in collection of the author.

Well, actually, I do want to do it all! I’m a genealogist, after all. But with the time available, we all have to set priorities. So every month, I consider what I want to accomplish in the next four weeks. Educational opportunities to pursue, volunteer obligations to meet, presentations to prepare, ongoing research projects to continue…. But I will also remember my mission statement: PPaS. Prove, Preserve, and Share.

I will probably blog about this again in coming months. For example, there are special considerations for including DNA in my PPaS tasks. And maybe I’ll share one of my PPaS projects here.

Do you have plans to prove, preserve, and share any of your genealogy?

© June 2021    Ann Raymont, CG®

5 thoughts on “PPAS

  1. Christopher Schuetz

    Waaay back I was almost seduced into chasing up obscure connections instead of going for what I really wanted. Those were the pen and ruler days with big sheets of paper taped together for a family tree. I color-mapped the lines – red for top priority went to my direct ancestors, who were my priority at that time. Siblings to the direct line received a cooler color and the next degree away another color still. At that time this prioritisation saved me time and lots of money on certificates I didn’t really need.
    Don’t think any family tree program quite has a feature to do that these days!
    Later I had other priorities, like finish writing that history while a family member is still around and able to read and appreciate it.
    And sometimes the priority is to stop researching for a moment and spend time with family making some history!



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