I’ve been using genealogy research as a sleep aid for years. Our genes have a big impact on our sleep patterns at any age, but as we get older, we may find it much more difficult to fall asleep. Experts tell us to turn off our electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime, but with a blue-light filter on a small laptop or iPad, you might find it easier to drift off to dreamland with visions of ancestors dancing in your head.
When you tuck into your bedtime research, avoid complex projects. Choose research activities that are simple but time-consuming, such as labeling your Ancestry DNA matches with custom group colors. (Turn on the Ancestry beta functionality.) Or look for general information on parishes, counties or religious groups. Bedtime is also a great time to pore through records that are not indexed or to read fascinating stories in online history books.
The downside of doing your research at night is that you might end up repeating some of your work. It’s easy to forget what you’ve done, and if you’re like me, you don’t want to fiddle with a checklist when your back is against a pillow. I like to take screenshots on my iPad as a way of documenting my research journey, and later, after a good night’s sleep, I write a few notes.
Here’s an example of my work from last night:
- I labeled several of my “blue” Smith family DNA matches on Ancestry.com.
- I looked through a few church records that were not indexed.
- I located some historical information on Irish settlements in Derry, Pennsylvania. (Tonight I’ll actually read the online document. Last night, I had to stop because my eyes were starting to close.)