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Guide 2 Genealogy   >   Research Logs

 

Genealogy Research Logs


Would you be able to assemble a five-hundred piece jigsaw puzzle if you were allowed to pick up each piece only once? Well perhaps if you are some kind of genius but you probably wouldn't even attempt to solve the puzzle that way. The way to solve a jigsaw is to sort through the pieces until you find where they fit, and this process goes more smoothly if you have a system of organization in place before you get started. Putting together your family tree is a lot like that.

In the first four generations of your family tree, there are at least eight families. Each family is composed of individuals, each of whom needs to be uniquely identified. Each individual has life events that uniquely identify that person. Each life event has identifying pieces (names, dates, places, and relationships). So, there are many pieces to even the smallest family trees.

Here is a typical process to begin assembling your family tree.
  1. Collect pieces of information in a box.

  2. Sort the information by the surname documented.

  3. Further sort your copies according to the generation they document.

  4. Begin assembly by recording what you have already found and where you found it.
As you assemble pieces of information, your box will start to fill up. The box is only a temporary storage location to get you started, but you still need to be organized.

As you move forward, you need to start recording what you have found into "research logs" (also known as a "research calendar"). Your research logs document the drama of your search and are used to record both past and planned searches.

Your research log should contain all the information about what you are planning to look for and where you plan to look for it. Whenever you make a search, write a letter, send an email message, or do an interview, you should record the details of when, where, who, and what you did in your research log. You can also write down comments about problems you may have had, and details about the source (author, title, publication information, the volume and page that mentions your ancestor, etc.).

You will need this information so that you can analyze and evaluate what you done. Additionally, by thoroughly recording this information, you will be able to find that source when you need it again.

A research log will function serve to preserve important information that you could easily forget. It will help you remember why you wrote a letter to Jane Doe eight months ago. It will provide a means of noting difficulties that you encountered with a source. And it will jog your memory about searching a particular source, so that you won't search that source again unless you mean to do so.

Just like everything else, your research log needs to be organized too. Some genealogists like to record everything in one log. Others prefer to keep separate "before" and "after" logs, separately recording what they planned to research, and the results of their research. Many genealogists even keep an additional separate log, purely for correspondence.

If you talk to different genealogists, you will no doubt find many strong opinions about how best to organize a research log, and how many logs to use. In the end, however, the decision is up to you. The most important thing is that you do have a log, and you have an organized system that works for you.


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