In an earlier post I talked about strategy, breaking it down into ten segments. Today I am going to write about retaining a research log and the value of it, essentially this is segment five. You can read the strategy series HERE.
As I have mentioned numerous times, I am a prolific note taker. I note all sorts of things down, not just research and over the years I have moved between an online version, held in a spreadsheet and one retained in a note book. My preferred method is notebook and pen, and I never leave home without them!
I do not just record what data set I looked at and for whom, I also record the results, including the negative results. I also date the pages (with the note also indexed at the front of my notebook). At the same time as recording what I have discovered or not, I also build a to do list, essentially what I should look at next. Sometimes those to dos are not just to locate a particular set of information in a data set, but perhaps to locate an image of a location that I can use to illustrate the place or surname.
I talked about how my planning and note taking method formed in this post. As I explained there, I draw out trees as I work through the data, it helps me think and build the to do list. I also shared about building a time line of a specific individual and you can see an example here, in a post about Daniel Butcher, again scoping the information out in the manner enables me to see what information I have AND what I do not have.
One of the important elements is to record where you find material – the citations. The point of a citation is so that you can see where you obtained information from or someone else can follow in your footsteps and arrive at the same conclusion as you or identify something you have missed. By citation I mean, what the document actually is. So using the example from the time line of Daniel Butcher, there are references to Manorial records, those are the citations, along with the reference number allocated to them by the archives that holds them, in this case, Surrey History Centre. Parish records are a citation, so Daniel’s baptism is from Bramley parish records held by the Surrey History Centre and in this case I obtained my copy from both the History centre AND one of the online record providers, and they are listed as repositories.
Tomorrow I shall be looking at managing research result and again that will include citations. Do I have a perfect database for my own genealogy and One-Name Studies? No is the answer. Will they ever be perfect? I hope so, but it might take me a while to achieve what I want. If I was hit by a bus tomorrow would someone be able to pick up when I left off? probably although they would have a lot of filing and scanning to do!
My final message here, is do not strive for perfection. Do not strive to have a complete project before you publish, because that might never happen. Strive for what is best use of your time and adds the greatest value to your study and the genealogical community. I will talk a little later in this series about sharing material and as readers and former students of the Introduction to One-Name Studies course will attest to, I am a big believer in sharing your work and spreading the word.