Every genealogist loves the pursuit of evidence. We happily spend hours checking court records, walking a cemetery and reviewing source materials in a library, however not many genealogists enjoy the hours spent writing reports, cataloging documents, citing sources and storing that evidence.
Let’s be honest, most of us have at least one pile of uncatalogued papers stacked on a home office table, waiting to be scanned and filed. This is a bad habit we must break. Yes, I have had to mend my ways, too. We need to respect our long hours of research by, at the very least, cataloging and writing out our findings to make sense of the new evidence and, ideally, share all that we have learned with others.
Upon returning from a research trip we should have the following items to integrate into our family files:
- Research log
- Newly acquired documents (hardcopy, digital, and, possibly, transcription/abstraction)
- Notes, contact information, business cards
The Touch It Once (T.I.O.) principle of efficiency is the key to success at this stage of research. It may seem time consuming, but if you follow these steps in analyzing and handling the document only once, you will be rewarded in the long-run.
On the research trip to Ohio with Penny, one of the focuses of my research was the Merritt family, specifically, Thomas Merritt and his son Vander Merritt. I was able to find and record some exciting new documents, but I also needed to keep track of what I didn’t find and all the places I searched (e.g., no land records Thomas Merritt or searched in Medina County probate court).
My Research Log is a simple Excel worksheet. I only keep one per family, rather than one per research trip. An updated hardcopy of the log goes into my family binder and the electronic copy is always stored in my Dropbox family folder so I can access and update them from anywhere.
The detail in the research log will allow me to:
- quickly find a citation for a fact as I am writing my research report or genealogy
- keep track of research locations
- keep track of record sets searched
- record negative results
The research log is an ongoing, active file in which I continue to record research for each family line. Before I open Ancestry, load microfilm into a reader, or pull a deed book from the shelf, I open my Research Log. If electronics are not allowed in the repository or I can’t get on the Internet, I record the same information in a notebook and record it that evening into my Research Log. Once home, I print and replace the Research Log in the appropriate family binder.
NEWLY ACQUIRED DOCUMENTS
I file each piece of new evidence both electronically and in hardcopy – for me it is the best of both worlds. Steps to integrating new research into family files:
Dropbox folder for Merritt family includes one folder for each generation, the descendant chart, research report and written genealogy.
- Analyze each document carefully
- Record pertinent data in genealogy software
- Makes notes for further research based new evidence
- Scan hardcopy document
- Name scanned document to include citation
- Place document in archival plastic sleeve
- File in binder in chronological order by ancestor
- Place scan copy in Dropbox folder
- Name any photos taken with citation
- Move photos to Dropbox folder
- Print photos of documents for binder
- Transcribe any lengthy or hard to read documents
The document name contains pertinent citation information for easy reference. This is a deed transfer from Merritt to Huntington found in deed book 5, page 231 at Medina Co., OH
Each piece of evidence is now in the binder and in my Dropbox folder properly labeled and safely filed.
NOTES, BUSINESS CARDS, MISC.
Incorporate any miscellaneous notes from your notebook or notes on collected scraps of paper into your research report or genealogy software. Add any new contacts that you’ve come across during your trip into your electronic address book or contact list. You may need to reach out to these people or organizations in the future. Send a thank you note to anyone who may have gone above and beyond to help you
WRITE-UP YOUR RESEARCH FINDINGS
Documenting your findings in writing can take the form of a full research report or an update to your detailed family group sheet – both with citationsJ. Writing up your findings in a report or adding them to your ongoing written family genealogy also allows you to critically think about the evidence you have obtained and compare it to the evidence you already have. Do you really have enough primary information to support your kinship analysis? Is there any conflicting evidence? What other information could be available for which you have not yet looked? Are you satisfied with the research and evidence you have collected?
The research report will provide you with a snapshot or overview of your research trip. It should include all results from the research, all repositories and record sets reviewed during the trip, abstractions or transcripts of documents and records found, and a “to do” list for further research. The research report will also include information already known and documents previously obtained about the research subject.
Below are two examples of way to record your research: Sample Family Group Sheet with Findings
Sample Research Report with Findings – p. 4 of 5.