Strategy for a Genealogical Project – Planning Structure of a Project?

genealogical project strategyIn an earlier post I talked about strategy, breaking it down into ten segments. Today I am going to write a about planning the structure of a project, essentially segment three. You can read the strategy series HERE

When I began the early stages of collecting Butcher material it was to some degree scattershot. There was no planning, if I spotted a Butcher reference I wrote it down and usually wrote where I found the material, but on occasions didn’t which is totally unhelpful.

The Guild of One-Name Studies at this time were advocating that those undertaking a study began with the General Registration Office (GRO) indexes. In the late 1980’s that involved going to St Catherine’s House and manually lifting down the books – four a year for births, marriages and deaths, so twelve heavy books a year in total. It also meant trawling through microfilm and fiche indexes to locate records. There was no online, no Ancestry or FindmyPast. There was the IGI, but nothing like the FamilySearch we know of today.

I started my extraction of Butcher material from St Catherine’s focusing on Surrey and Sussex only, that took me over 4 years. I eventually went back and collected the rest of the material later on, but I managed to do a download from FreeBMD, covering the years 1837-1983 for the whole of England and Wales in about 2 minutes – oh how times have changed.

Whether the surname is a popular one of not, you need to decide where you are going to start your data extraction. You could start with the material from FreeBMD and why not, it will take minutes. You might choose to start with the area, whether that is parish records or registration districts where you know your family came from and work outwards from there. Or you might decide to start with Census material or marriages.

There is no right or wrong approach. I choose marriages. A Census has the potential for too many “others” – borders, visitors, servants etc. I make the sweeping assumption that people get married then have children and therefore I can create my family groups from marriages, then go back and look at Census and parish records. You also might start your research outside of England and Wales.

You might choose to start in the area (country or state) where you reside, or where your family resided or where you have easy access to material. You decide where you want to start. Consider boundary changes, Ireland for example was one Country until 1922. From 1922, the country is split with the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom. You might choose to work on more than one area at a time, again there is no right or wrong approach

The next question is how to keep material. Spreadsheets or a genealogical programme or both? I use both, but I also have a huge amount of paper because my study started well before the use of a computer. When I teach the Pharos One-Name Studies course, I always say to students that I am envious of those just starting out, because they don’t tend to have the paper baggage that needs to be digitised. I am a prolific note taker. This series was created by using pen and my notebook and I have talked previously about how I use a notebook for my research and how I began my love affair with notes! You can read those posts HERE and HERE. You might also choose to retain notes in One-Note and or Evernote and I wrote about my use of those tools HERE

I will be back tomorrow when I will be looking at the focus elements of a genealogical project, but specifically a One-Name Study.

About Julie Goucher

Genealogist, Author, Presenter, native Guildfordian, avid note taker and journal writer. Lover of Books, Stationery & History; Surnames, Butcher & Orlando One-Name Studies. Pharos Tutor for all One-Name Studies/surname courses as well as Researching Ancestors from Continental Europe.
This entry was posted in Introduction to One-Name Studies (Pharos course 901), One-Name Studies, Strategy for a Genealogical Project. Bookmark the permalink.

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