I’ve been doing genealogy research professionally for almost a decade now. When clients are paying you by the hour, you learn lots of really great shortcuts to keep you moving along and focused. The big tip I shared on Thursday’s episode of The Barefoot Genealogist? (Drumroll, please.)
Professional Genealogists Create Research Plans
1. What do I want to know?
Be really specific about exactly what it is you are looking for. This helps you stay focused and is the key to the rest of the plan.
Bad: Where do my Woodruff’s come from?
Better: Where was my ggg-grandfather born?
Best: John Woodruff was probably born about 1831 in Ohio. Who were his parents?
2. What do I already know?
3. How do I know it?
These two questions go together. And, I often bounce back and forth between them repeatedly until I’ve exhausted everything I already know about the person in question. I also make sure I’ve recorded everything I know about their spouse and children.
I like to put this information into the notes section of the person profile in Family Tree Maker. I enter the notes chronologically based on the person’s life (not based on the order in which I found the records). You can see an example of how I do that at 7:22 in the video.
4. Where could I possibly find what I want to know?
5. Do the records exist? If so, where?
Again, we have a pair of questions that work well together. Create a list of records you could search – census, military, vitals, immigration, etc. Then do a search in the Ancestry Wiki for the place and record type to see if what you need exists. Also, be sure to check the Ancestry Card Catalog to see if what you want exists ONLINE at Ancestry.com
For those of you who are new to this fun and fascinating adventure called genealogy, I hope you find this helpful. For those of you who’ve been doing it a while maybe this will give you a renewed focus to break through that brick wall you’ve been struggling with.
Bonus Tip: Look for a local genealogical society to join. You will find friends who are willing to help and offer fresh perspectives on your genealogy brick walls.
Until next time – Have fun climbing your family tree…