Researching genealogy can be and exciting and worthwhile experience. The thrill of discovery-be it on the internet, in the box of family records and photos, in a book about the history of your ancestor’s home town or even searching a cemetery- this is what we all want. When we strike the vein of gold that has some information that can help us, we add it to our ancestor records. Sounds simple, right? Let’s step back a minute and look at this again.
Many times our searches take days, weeks, months, even years. Oft times, we are interrupted or distracted from our current pursuit. When we search for a particular piece of information on an ancestor, it is often necessary that we go through hundreds or more pieces of information, some may look promising and lead us to nowhere, some may contain information that might help us with another generation or family member but not the person we are looking for. In fact, it is so easy to get lost or confused, to forget where we have looked and what we have found, where we have looked and what we have not found. It then becomes apparent that we can’t move forward because we don’t know where we have been. Returning to the search mode can be made simple and easy.
There is a tool that we all need to learn to use that will help us slog through all of the dips and turns, the highs and lows, the successes and the lack of successes. The RESEARCH LOG is your friend. This is a promise-if you are valiant and thorough in using a Research Log, your genealogy research journey will be rewarding.
What do you track on a Research Log?
- Every place you research
- The result of each search-positive or negative
- Information to help you cite or return to the location of the result
- The date you researched that source
Start your research log(s) by putting the name of the person you are researching. I like to add birth and death years and the PIN (Personal Identification Number) assigned to the person by FamilySearch Family Tree.
State your goal for this research-researching for sources for birth and death dates, finding parents and maiden name, or whatever you are searching for. You may have multiple research logs for one person or just one. In order to keep your search on track, you may want to create multiple logs for different searches.
Hard copies (paper) or digital? A combination of both? Find a format that you are comfortable with and you know you can use. Using the Research Log on your personal family tree software is easy to use and you can set up the log sheets as you discover researches that need to be made, as well as keep them stored online with the results.
If you choose to keep paper copies, keep them in working folders of the ancestor and store them with the ancestor collected data when you have finished researching.
Oh, did I really say “finished”? You and I both know that the research is never “finished”, but that is another story, for another day.
Where can I find Research Logs
Family Tree Magazine – Free Forms
FamilySearch.org – Research Log
Cyndi’s List – Printable Charts & Forms