Archive for September 14th, 2013

I recently had the opportunity to go to Salt Lake City, Utah and spend a day at the Family History Library. Usually when I take a research trip I have some time to prepare, to gather records, and to make lists of what I want to research. This opportunity came so suddenly that I had no time to get ready. I had just enough time to quickly pack a suit case and leave, and of course grab my computer.

Anyone has every researched at the FHL will tell you that  it can be overwhelming. There is so much at your fingertips that you can almost become paralyzed trying to decide where to look first. You will ask yourself which family line you should research?  You will wonder if you should look at a book that has not been digitized yet, a film that holds your family land records, or maybe a parish microfiche?

My research logs saved the day. I keep a research log for each family that I am researching. To each log I add the date of any search, where I searched, and the source description, including title, author, the call number and/or url. I include whatever I find, or don’t find, and where I filed any useful information. I use these logs for both online and library research. To this log I also add a ‘To Do’ list, which includes the numbers of any films that I may want to order, certificates I need to find, or missing information that I want to locate.

Because I keep these logs up to date, I was able to begin right where I last left off. After a few minutes of reviewing my log, I knew exactly what was needed next. I was able to look for a missing will for my  Hutton/Stewart ancestor, some  land records for the Argyle Patent in Washington County New York, and a filmed land record for a client.

A research log sometimes seems tedious to keep. It means you have to stop what you are doing in your research process, and write down what you have found. What can be even more annoying is logging a source where you have found nothing. You may even be tempted to not enter that into your log. Be careful. If you don’t log what you have looked at, or make a note that a source contains nothing helpful, then you are likely to spend time looking for, and at, the same record again.

My research log is a chronological list of my sources, what I have found, and what I need to find.  It also contains a summary of my findings, and where I file the information I gather. It reduces duplication of research and helps me locate again the documents I have previously searched, It also keeps me on track. Log on!

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