Genealogy: Research trip priorities—After your trip

Genealogy: Research trip priorities—After your tripBy Barry J. Ewell

Take time to organize, catalog, and share your findings after your trip

Within hours of returning home, you will be unpacked, clothes will be in the wash, mail will be opened, and you will have spoken to family and friends about your trip.

Overall, you are very satisfied with the goals you were able to accomplish and move forward. I would recommend that within twenty-four hours of returning home, you start the process of documenting and organizing all aspects of your trip—from photographs to brochures and from photocopies to journal entries. Don’t let it become another pile of genealogy “to-do’s.” Items easily become misplaced or forgotten, and often you forget why a record was important.

Follow your usual steps in processing, organizing, and cataloging your information. The following sequence is intended to be a recommendation, not a sequence to follow rigidly. Don’t change your usual sequence if it varies from the order listed here.

  1. 1.Analyzewhatgoalswere accomplished and how.
    1. What goals were moved forward and how?
    2. What goals were left undone?
    3. Did you find new data that requires changes or updates to genealogy records?
    4. Look at your family tree and see what your next steps will be.
    5. Do you continue working on the same line or do you start a new direction?
    6. Start the next research to-do log.
    7. Add tasks to your existing list.
    8. Note any questions your research may have raised.
  2. Who did you promise correspondence?
    1. Why?
    2. By when?
    3. Who do you want to send a thank you to?
  3. Review your journal writings.
    1. Enter into computer.
    2. Which people, places, and so on do you want to enter into your resource file?
  4. New data that revises old data, if found
    1. Update your family information (group sheets, pedigree charts).
    2. In your notes, document your change (and sources) carefully so that other family members won’t think you have made a mistake and change it back.
    3. Record the date you made the change.
    4. Make a backup of your data (clearly label) before you begin data entry of new information.
    5. Make a backup of your data (clearly labeled) right after you enter data.
  5. If you recorded any interviews or thoughts on tape:
    1. Transcribe any interviews, noting the date, place, interviewee, and interviewer.
    2. If there is a tape, videotape, photographs, or notes, be sure to indicate that on the transcription.
    3. If you use exact quotes, put them in quotes, otherwise indicate that you are paraphrasing, so it is perfectly clear.
    4. If you have the ability to digitize your interviews, do so for backup.
  6. Carefully and safely organize documents, copies, and notes.
    1. Scan documents and copies to be included in your electronic files.
    2. File the acquired data (hard copies) in your files.
    3. Make new files as needed.
    4. If you have a database log, make notes as needed.
    5. Flag files with notes to yourself if needed.
    6. Clearly document data you acquired, its source, and its value to your research.
    7. Make copies for your master file as needed.
  7. Organize photos, postcards, brochures, and pictures.
    1. Scan hardcopy or paper information to be included in your electronic files.
    2. If desired, insert information into your family tree program if the software allows.
    3. If you took photos, record dates, place, and reason of importance for each snapshot.
    4. Edit photos as needed (cropping, color correction, and so on).
    5. Develop a photo log to organize materials.
    6. Develop a backup file of photos.
    7. Integrate key photos with family history.
    8. If you came home with rare original photos, carefully store them (in archival quality storage, acid free enve¬lopes, low light, and so on).
  8. Share information—information doesn’t do any good sitting in your files.
    1. Let others know what you have discovered. Let them share in your excitement.
    2. Write a letter to family.
    3. Include in a family newsletter.
    4. Post a note on message boards of research data found with documentation.
    5. Ask questions, if information you found was ambiguous or contradictory, others may be able to help you.
  9. Share your resources with genealogy societies, newsgroups, and message boards.
    1. In addition to what you learned about family, share what you learned about libraries and archives in the locations you visited.
    2. Discuss the scope of collections and services available.