(Digital Art by Kerekes Janos Csongor, provided with creative commons license at Flicker ~ thanks)
How do you set your genealogy goals, plan for and keep track of your research, and maintain your research logs? Do you use paper and pen, a spreadsheet or word processing document, a form provided by your genealogy database program, a research blog ~ or a combination of methods? Does your method work in theory and in practice? If you already have a functioning system, please share it with the rest of us.
Otherwise ~ It's a new year and time to turn over a new leaf ~ make 2011 the year you get organized and keep track of all your hard work by setting research goals, focusing on your research plans and maintaining research logs! I am convinced that research logs are the key to propelling our genealogy research forward in an organized and focused manner.
- First things first ~ take some time to watch the following lectures, produced by the Family History Library:
- Research Logs, Part 1 (a 21 minute lecture discussing the purpose and uses of research logs)
- Research Logs, Part 2 (a 24 minute lecture which builds on Part 1)
- (Be sure to take a look at the Learning Center for a wealth of free lectures/courses at the FHL website ~ from beginning genealogy through specific country and area research).
- Second ~ check out examples of research logs on the Internet, in how-to genealogy primers, and/or your genealogy database program. Copy off a few examples and play around with them during the next few weeks to see what format works best for you.
- After attending the lectures mentioned above at the FHL (and watching them again on the FHL website) I decided upon a variation of the format supplied with Legacy Family Tree's genealogy program. Take a look at your own genealogy database program and see if it has a research log. These can be printed out and/or saved as a template on your computer. I find that I do best by having blank research log sheets to use while in the library/archives (these can always be scanned later if I decide to maintain all of my research logs on the computer).
- Third ~ decide how you plan to organize your research logs. Some people keep track of their research logs by individual or family (keeping track of one individual or family per sheet in date order); other people keep track by research date or facility (all of the research performed on a particular date or at a particular facility are on one sheet).
- Keep in mind that if your research logs are maintained on your computer, a quick search will bring up individual names, RINs, MRINs, dates, facilities, documents, etc.
- Fourth, and here is the most important part of this exercise ~ maintain your research logs. This means entering the information into your research log as you perform the research. No matter what you think, you will not go back and fill in your research logs the next day or at the end of the week! Use your research log every single time you perform research!
- Fifth,information to include in your research log
- Ancestor's Name
- Date of Search
- Location/Call Number
- Description of Source (author, title, year, volume, pages)
- Comments (purpose of search, results, years and names searched)
- Document Number (if you copy/scan a document for cross-referencing)
- An example of a research log can be found here.
One of my New Year's resolutions for 2011 is to work smarter, not harder ~ I plan to use a research log without fail very single time I research for the first three months of the year ~ at that point I will revisit the issue of research logs (and blog about my experience). Hopefully using a research log will become second nature to me. How about you?