Taking a Step Back to Review, by Juliana Smith

In a world where we can click and add a record to our tree, it’s easy to lose track of all the details we find in a record. As we continue to gather records, a lot of clues get lost along the way. Periodically it’s important to go back and do a comprehensive review of what we have accumulated. If we look at the big picture, we’re going to spot a lot more opportunities for further research and we may find that the clue you’ve been searching for has been sitting in your files all along. Here are some tips for reviewing what has been found for an ancestor.

Take some time to step out of the search mode and gather all the information you’ve found on an ancestor. Grab a pad of paper or open up a blank document on the computer to take notes. (If you’re like me and are tempted to run off and investigate the first item you find, you might want to stick with the pad and paper and leave the computer off. Many a review session of mine has gone unfinished because I saw “something shiny in the distance!”)

Inventory the records you have collected on the person, and go through and re-read them, taking notes on any thoughts that come into your head. Make to-do lists as you find things you’d like to follow up on.

I use charts liberally in my reviewing. For example, if I have an ancestor whose age is inconsistent in multiple records, I’ll create a chart of all of the places where I have an age for that person, and estimate the year of birth. When I look at the big picture, sometimes it’s easier to figure out what record or records are more likely to be correct. I’ve also created lists of sponsors for families and have often found relations within these lists.

Once you’ve completed a thorough review, you’re sure to have a healthy to-do list. Now it’s time to power up that computer again and start tackling whatever you can online. With the information fresh in your mind, your chances for success are very good!

2 thoughts on “Taking a Step Back to Review, by Juliana Smith

  1. I heartily endorse the message contained in this article. As a single person, with no family, I spend a large slice of my time at Christmas/New Year carrying out a review of the past year’s activity in my Family History research.

    As an ex-Project Manager I adopt a formal planning discipline to my Family History researches. I create a separate Word document in which to record and track each Research Task. As the research takes place this document gets updated with progress and with my thoughts on the next steps to be taken. It is a “living” document.

    The end-of-year review includes: reading each Research Task in the planning file to make sure that it has been completed; and if not to update the document to reflect it’s actual status.

    I then generate some reports from my PAF database and use these to review the consistency of my data entry and to identify potential problems and loose ends.

    The result of this activity is that I create a new batch of Research Tasks with which to start the New Year’s “ancestor hunt”.


  2. Julia , any chance that you might let us have a look at one of your charts to show us how to start one of our own.
    Thanks, love your articles, Gloria

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