Genealogy census tip: Keep a research log and cite your sources

CitingBy Barry J. Ewell
I can’t stress how important it is to keep a log of your research.  Document where you have been and what you have found.  Even when you haven’t found anything on your family, write it down. Good records become valuable in being able to correctly analyze you research and giving other researches a trail to follow.  See the article, ” Fifty-eight Downloadable PDF Forms to Help You Record Genealogy Research Findings.”

The log can include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Who you have talked to and information provided,
  • Information you have found and citations,
  • The questions you still seek answers to,
  • Thoughts of where to research,
  • The answers you have found, and
  • Ideas and assumptions you are making and why.

Keep a to-do list—a plan as to what research you seek to per¬form. Organize the plan so the most important research gets done first. Often you find that when you focus on top priority research, many other items on your list are completed also.

Group your to-do items by the source you will use to conduct research.

Create a “future research” file. As you are conducting your focused research, you will always come up with ideas for research you want to conduct that is outside the focus of your current line of inquiry. Record it—whether it’s an idea, a paragraph, a printed document, a photocopy, or whatever else—put it in the file, and forget about it until you are done with the task at hand. You can then go through the file at a later date, organize your notes, and start the next task. Don’t be surprised if you begin doubling your accomplishments.

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