5 Things You Can Do in Genealogy When You’re Short on Time

“What family history tasks could a busy person do if they have irregular 15-minute time chunks?” Devon Noel Lee of A Patient Genealogist recently asked me that great question. As much as all of us would love to spend uninterrupted days on end exploring our family history, reality is much closer to “I have 15 minutes before my next appointment. What can I do now?” Here are 5 things you can do to be productive.

5 Things You Can Do in Genealogy When You're Short on Time

1. Scan and Label Photographs

No, you’re not going to scan and label all of your photographs in this time. But those that you do in that 15 minutes are more than you had done before! (Check out my post on how to label as you scan.)

2. Transcribe a Document

Transcribing a document is a great way to get more out of your research. You’ll pick up clues that go unnoticed when you’re just scanning “for the good stuff.” Even if you don’t get all the way through it in 15 minutes or you get stuck on a few words, it’s often enough time for a good first pass through.

3. Record a Memory

We get so focused on the past that we sometimes forget that we are our family history. Our stories and memories count every bit as much as the one’s we’re trying to save of our ancestors. (Stuck trying to think of a topic? FamilySearch has a list of 58 questions to get you started.)

4. Do a Census Search

I bet there is someone in your family tree right now who you don’t have all of their census records. Go find some. (This works best if you have a current to-do list, so that you can keep track of what you’ve searched for and what you haven’t.)

5. Add to Your To-Do List

This seems counter-productive, but it actually helps in the long run. Having a good to-do list –whether you keep in on paper, in your genealogy software, a spreadsheet, or Evernote — helps keep our thoughts and our efforts organized. Brainstorm about a genealogy problem you have and the resources you want to explore. Once you have a list, you can use that as starting point when you have a spare 15 minutes to work in. (“Hmmm, I need to explore land records for great-great-grandpa.” Then you can spend your 15 minutes looking on FamilySearch to see if they are online or on microfilm, and preparing for when you have a longer stretch of time to actually use the records.) It’s all in the preparation.

If you want even more ideas, check out these 5 more things you can do.

What genealogy-related things do you do when you have only 15 minutes to work on it? Leave a comment below — I’d love to hear your suggestions!

5 Things You Can Do in Genealogy When You're Short on Time