Does your genealogy search feel a bit scattered? Whip it into organized, efficient shape by using a research log. Our expert shows you how to get started.
As the saying goes, “You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.” In the course of your research, you probably talk with relatives, use online databases and websites, visit repositories to scour books and microfilm, and yes, sometimes even send away for records via mail. You might collect plenty of data for each ancestor, but usually each answer leads to more questions. Keeping track of it all so you can pick up where you left off and avoid rechecking the same sources gets challenging. The best way I’ve found to manage my searching is to record my research to-dos and have-dones in a simple spreadsheet—a research log.
A log is a comprehensive list of sources you’ve already searched or plan to search, including the purpose of each search (what you want to find); a summary of what you did or didn’t find; the related person or family and where they lived; notations and source citations; and comments about your search strategies, suggestions, questions, analyses and discrepancies. You can use this important tool to organize and track your research, to prepare for a research trip or to pick back up after a break. Just follow these six steps.