Whether you are just beginning your genealogy project or have done genealogy research for some time now, it is useful to improve your research skills. However, it is important to keep in mind that there are some differences between the kind of research you might do for a research paper and the kind of research you do for genealogy. The main difference is that with genealogy research, you are constantly doing research. A genealogy project can seem overwhelming, which can encourage procrastination. Learning some tips for doing research can help to ensure the most effective genealogy research process possible.
Analyze What you Know
Your genealogy project is ultimately gathering information about your own family. You likely already know a significant amount about this, whether through family stories, photo albums, or research. When you begin a genealogy project, you will want to first analyze what you already know about your family tree. Write this information down. Find sources to support this information so that you can show proof of the connections when necessary. You are your first source of information for your family history.
Move from Known to Unknown
Once you have carefully considered what you already know about your family, you will want to consider what you don’t know and what you’d like to learn. This will help you to ensure that you provide a direction for your research. When you don’t know what you need or want to learn, it will be difficult to do effective research or set goals for your project. The direction in which you go about doing your research will likely determine how efficient your research processes are.
Keep Thorough Notes
Don’t trust your brain to remember everything you learn about your family. Take careful, thorough notes. Ensure that you keep these notes organized. Take the steps to ensure that they are easy to read and understand. You will rely a great deal on your notes as you gather more information about your family line. By keeping thorough, effective notes, you can significantly simplify your processes and prevent any research from becoming wasted.
Document Your Sources
Take care to document your sources when you learn more information. This will help you to provide proof of the information that you obtain. When you haven’t documented your sources, it can be extremely difficult to go back and find the first place you found the information. Along with your thorough notes, ensure that you include where you got the information from.
Keep a Research Log
Genealogy projects are often lifelong processes. You may forget that you have already looked through a specific source or what information you got from that source. Keep a detailed research log to streamline your processes. You should include what you learned from where, the date that you did the research, and other factors. This can help to optimize your research and prevent you from searching through sources that you have already gone through.
Don’t Throw Away Notes
Though it is important to practice proper organization, it is also important to refrain from throwing away older notes. Even notes that state that you didn’t find applicable information in a particular resource are valuable. These notes can help to ensure that all of your research is valuable. If you go back to a resource that you’ve already checked because you threw away your notes about it, you will have wasted your previous research.
Many people want to start doing genealogy research, but they put it off for some time in the future, when they are sure that they will have more time. However, this can be particularly detrimental to your research project. It is important to ensure that you start doing research as soon as possible to prevent the loss of valuable resources. Your living relatives can provide you with vast amounts of information regarding your genealogy project. The sooner you begin your genealogy research, the more resources you will have at your disposal. Procrastinating genealogy research tends to make the overall project much more difficult.
A genealogy project is never completely finished. There’s always more to learn. It is important to set specific research goals to help you to gauge your progress. Without goals, the process will ultimately seem endless and extremely overwhelming.
Ask for Help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you are doing genealogy research. A great possible resource is joining a genealogical society or consulting with other people who share your same interests. They may have already done some valuable research regarding your situation or have some great advice to follow. Asking for help can often help you overcome walls in your research and optimize your research strategies.
Interview Living Relatives
Talk with your living relatives when you begin doing your research. They will have information regarding their close family members and will be able to provide you with data and information. This can also help to provide you with ideas regarding the best places to begin searching for information about your ancestry. For example, if a relative tells you that your family immigrated from Germany, you will know to look for European genealogy resources and records.
A genealogy project isn’t simply something that can be completed over the course of a year. They are ongoing projects. It is important to be patient with your research and with yourself. This can go a long way toward improving the experience that you have with your genealogy project.
Hire a Professional
A professional genealogist often has many more resources at their disposal. They also have more experience and skills when it comes to your genealogy project. When you find that you are stuck or that you are having difficulty with your research, it can be especially beneficial to work with a professional. Here at Heritage Consulting, we offer many genealogy-related services to improve your research. Whether you need assistance with a personal project or estate research, we offer the right services for you. To learn about how to more effectively do your genealogy research, contact our team at Heritage Consulting today!