Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Using and Managing a Genealogy Research Log

One of the hardest things about doing our genealogy research is keeping track of everything. Almost every ancestor has his or her own "to-do" list of information we need to find. Then there is the problem of notating where we looked for what kind of information for each ancestor and what we found (or didn't find) - which often leads to another "to-do" item. We need citations. We need to document record types and their repositories. How many times have you gone searching for information and encountered a deja-vu moment - that "I've already been here and checked this once before" revelation. And if you make it a habit of chasing "bright shiny objects" as they present themselves, you can very easily get off track and find yourself wandering aimlessly, getting nothing constructive accomplished.  I know because I have been there and done that myself.

I recently attended one of Thomas MacEntee's webinars on using and managing a genealogy research log. He has created a marvelous spreadsheet tool to help us "do it right the first time". Why use a research log? There are a number of advantages: 1) create a research plan; 2) stay organized; 3) allow instant recall; 4) reduce "do-overs"; and 5) help analyze data.

Although Thomas withheld permission for me to share his hand-out for this tool (he felt that should only be available to those who paid to attend the webinar), he has made the spreadsheets available to anyone who wants to use them. I am currently using this tool to help me with my "do-over" and added another page to the existing sheet listing all the sources I regularly visit and their links. I add new resources to the sheet as I go so they will always be available.

Below is a screen shot from Thomas's sample page:

The sample sheets also include a page with explanations labeled "Start Here". Thomas shows you a sample log (see above) as well as one page devoted to citation formats.  It is very self-explanatory and flexible so that you can use it any way you please and add to it in any way you choose.  You can use the log for your whole project, or use separate logs for each branch or family name - whatever works for you.

Here are the links for the Excel version (which also works with Open Office) and the Google Sheets version.  Click on the links below to access the sheet format you are interested in.  The Excel version will download to your computer, and you can then double-click on the download to open the file.  The Google Sheets version will come up on your screen.  You can then use "save as" to save the template to your computer. At that point, I would make a copy of the template to use for your project and leave the original template intact in case you need to use it again or want to share it.  In the "Geneaology" folder on my hard drive, I have a sub-folder for "Templates".  Over the next few months I will be showing you many other template tools.  This would be a great opportunity to set up a place to store those you want to keep.

Thomas lists his email address at the bottom of the "Start Here" page in case you have any questions.


Of course, if I can answer any questions, I will be happy to help!

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

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