By Lori Samuelson
The New Year’s resolutions have been made and the decorations put away so it’s time to return to ancestor hunting! Perhaps Great Aunt Margaret gave you a clue during a family get together or maybe a tidbit was gleaned from Cousin Bill’s holiday note. If you’re feeling there are so many mysteries but too little time, simply take a deep breath, grab a writing utensil and relax. That’s right, you deserve to unwind and let your mind wander.
Now that you’re comfy, make a list of the most burning genealogical questions for which you are seeking answers. This list does not have to be neat, organized or complete; just write down whatever comes to mind. Here’s an example of my list:
My goal is to find…
When Ivan Kos emigrated from Austria-Hungary
Where Great Uncle Robert Hamilton was buried
How Thomas and John Duer are related
Why the Landfair’s divorced
Who has the Leininger family Bible
Sure you want all the answers but the most effective way to reach a goal is prioritizing what you consider most meaningful. By reviewing the list, I’m going to select “My goal is to find why the Landfair’s divorced.”
Crystalizing is the process of clearly shaping your goal to maximize achievement. By using the acronym S.M.A.R.T., you’ll be on your way to success! It’s easy to transform your question into a crystalized S.M.A.R.T. goal.
As with every acronym, each letter in S.M.A.R.T. represents an initial letter of another word. The “S” in S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific. To discover the answer, I need to add more specific details. With italics denoting further information, my goal becomes “to find out why Francis “Frank” Marion and Emma Jane Kuhn Landfair, who married on 16 September 1883 in Mercer County, Ohio, divorced.” Perhaps not all the information is available. That’s okay! Limited data is an alert that your goal may need refocusing. For instance, if I didn’t have the couple’s marriage date, I would first set a goal to find it. Why? No marriage means no divorce. Looking for a nonexistent record wastes time. That’s why details are significant to finding answers.
In S.M.A.R.T., “M” means Measurable. I need to further refine my goal by determining when the divorce occurred to obtain the decree. I know the couple’s last child, Orlo, was born on 18 October 1903. The couple was living apart by 1910 when Emma reported being divorced and Frank’s whereabouts were unknown. I have Frank’s death certificate dated 27 May 1925 so I know he was not deceased in 1910. I can now add to my goal “divorced between 1903-1910.”
“A” refers to Attainable. Is it possible to discover a divorce record in Ohio between1903-1910? Online searches will not yield the document; sometime only boots on the ground gets needed results. If you live in the area where the record resides, you may be able to retrieve it. If not, posting your goal on AncestorCloud could help you find what you need.
When you submit a proposal on AncestorCloud, the “R” in S.M.A.R.T is used. By providing Relevant information you’ll hopefully be rewarded with the desired result. Your proposal will include your goal statement – “Requesting the divorce decree for Francis “Frank” Marion and Emma Jane Kuhn Landfair, who married on 16 September 1883 in Mercer County, Ohio, and divorced between 1903-1910, most likely in Mercer County.”
Your helper will assist with the “T” for Trackable or Timebound. If the courthouse burned in 1923, the document you sought may be untrackable. Amending your proposal will be necessary to attain your goal of discovering the reason for the breakup. As an alternative, a newspaper search could be beneficial. By communicating together, your knowledgeable helper can discuss other resources to explore.
My document was trackable but the information received was disheartening; Frank was found “guilty of extreme cruelty toward plaintiff.” Even though the information discovered was difficult to absorb, I have a much better understanding of the family dynamics and the resultant effect on the following generation. Amazing how one document discovered with crystalized goal setting can unveil so much!
Bo Bennett said it best, “A dream becomes a goal when action is taken toward its achievement.” The dawning of a New Year is an opportune time to take action towards reaching your goals. With AncestorCloud, your genealogical dreams can become a reality.
 1910 U.S. census, Blue Creek Township, Mercer County, Ohio, population schedule, p. 4A (handwritten), family/dwelling 77, line 29, Emma J. Landfair; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 13 Dec 2016); citing NARA microfilm publications T624_1214.
 Ohio. Mercer County. Court of Common Pleas, Case 8024, “Emma J. Landfair vs Fancis (sic) M. Landfair,” 20 March 1908, County Clerk’s Office, Celina.