Monday, July 6, 2015

Research Plans Don't Have To Be Complicated

There is sooooooo much information available today on genealogy that it can sometimes become overwhelming.  There are as many ways to get something done as there are genealogists doing it.  If you head into the Internet and search for "Genealogy Research Plans" you could spend hours scrolling through and reading all the available articles, blog posts and internet postings explaining how to utilize this resource - and each form or plan was developed because it worked for the individual who put it together.  Linda and I have presented you with many examples of research plans, but at the end of the day, you have to figure out what works for you.

Whether you use a template we provided or download a template (or four or five) from the Internet to "test drive" you will end up spending a lot of time experimenting with various forms and formats.  In cleaning up the mess of paper I have accumulated on research plans, I have discovered that all of them contain the same six basic parts.  You can put these in a template format, or scribble it on a yellow lined legal pad.  You can use them in digital or paper form no matter the format, or even a combination of these.  But in the end, these are the six things you need to cover:
  1. Objective (name of ancestor and what is it you are looking to find)
  2. Known Facts (list what you already know to be true)
  3. Working Hypothesis (what do you "think" about what you know and how does it fit into your objective)
  4. Identified Sources (what sources do you already have that contain accurate, proven, cited information)
  5. Research Strategy (where do you plan to look next)
  6. Results (what did those searches listed in #5 above tell you)
That's it.  Plain and simple.  You need a separate plan, template, lined yellow sheet, or whatever form you choose to use for each objective.  And you have the whole back of the page for taking notes. This is particularly important if you are traveling somewhere to use a new resource (library, archives, town hall, court house, etc.). Having everything on one piece of paper makes it much easier, keeps you organized, and saves lots of time. If you are using a template, you can even print our blanks on colored paper coded to whatever color system you are using for your computer files or three-ring binders.

Don't get distracted by all the options.  Figure out what you need to know, where you need to look, and figure out a format that gets you results.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

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