Genealogy Tips & Tricks: Setting realistic goals for your genealogy research

Setting realistic goals for your genealogy researchBy Barry J. Ewell

If you are going to spend a half-day traveling across town to interview a family member, a full day traveling to a cemetery two hundred miles away to take pictures of family headstones, or several weeks abroad searching your family roots, having clearly defined goals will help you focus on desired outcomes for your research. Being able to state your goals will require research, preparation, and prioritization.

I had been asked by a fellow genealogist to provide a little assistance in helping them for a genealogy trip abroad. When I asked what their goals were for the trip, they replied with one goal, “We want to visit the village where our family lived in Wales.”

For the next couple of hours, we spend time taking inventory of what they knew, what they wanted to know, and what else they might want to do while in Wales. We discussed questions such as the following:

  1. Where did the family live in Wales? When?
  2. What do you know about Wales?
    1. The region where your family lived?
    2. The village where your family lived?
  3. When did the family come to America?
  4. Who in the family came to America?
  5. When and where were they born?
  6. Where and when did family members die?
  7. Did they leave any family in Wales?
  8. What did the father do for a living?
  9. What was the religion of the family?
  10. What brought the family to America?
  11. Where were the parents married?
  12. What ship did they come on and from what port?
  13. What do you wish to know about your family?

The couple pulled out family histories, family group sheets, and other documents that would help answer the questions. We did an Internet search on Wales and related topics. When we were done, we had a few more ideas of what they might like to do on their trip. For example, together we created the following list of goals for their trip to Wales:

  • Visit the city of Swansea in Wales.
  • Visit the church where our family attended church.
  • Find where members of our family are buried.
  • Learn about the history of Swansea.
  • Find out if the family had other children or family that stayed in Wales.
  • Find out who the parents and family of the wife were.
  • Learn about coal mining in Swansea and the area.
  • Learn about the culture in Swansea in the 1840s.
  • Learn what would have caused family to leave Wales.
  • Learn about common foods of Wales and Swansea.
  • Take a tour of Glamorganshire.

Of course, like any good genealogy researcher, they found that one answer often leads to several more questions that needed answers before they could finalize their plans for a genealogy trip to Wales. Their pre-trip preparation would range from conducting fur¬ther genealogy research in the United States to identifying research resources in Wales. They would be learning more about Wales and its history, identifying places to see and visit, evaluating options to participate in organized tours, and discovering Wales on their own.

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