I have written a lot previously about One-Name Studies (If you are new here, welcome! – you can read all the posts about researching surnames HERE)
As with any project, you need to sit down and scope out your plan and what you want to achieve from the project.
A surname project or One-Name Study is no different. Perhaps though, what is different is when the researcher started their research and that might have a direct correlation to how the project progresses and how the material is kept.
- What project do you want to undertake? – What is it that makes X fascinating to you that you want to explore more in-depth? This could be a One-Name Study or a One-Place Study. Researching a house,business, school etc.
- How are you going to achieve your quest? – How many hours do you have available to undertake the project? It does not need to be a lot, you might be working full time with a family and still want to undertake a project of this kind. Or you might be retired and have an abundance of time available. Perhaps consider working with others who share the same interest, or maybe you already have a body of work that you are using as your basis for the project.
- Plan the Structure of your Project – This will likely depend on what your project is and your starting data. You might be researching a Surname that you know originates in Ireland and you reside in the United States. Establish how big the surname is, look at migration points – where folk migrated to and how they did. Look at what material is available online and with easy access. Bear in mind that only a fraction of what is available is online. Given that the fact that Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland was one Country until 1922, you might find that records exist in both the archives of Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland. Given that and the geographical distance from Ireland to England, you could look at FreeBMD and search for your surname. How many are there? You might also consider HOW you are going to keep data that you find? – input directly into a genealogical programme or downloaded to a hard drive or copied into a note book or even create a spreadsheet. FreeBMD data can be exported as a CSV file and imported directly into Excel.
- Focus on the elements of a project – This might include the distribution of the surname, using a mapping site such as public profiler or Surname Atlas. It might include the origin of the surname and the type of surname it is. For each element I recommend a plan to be written. It does not have to be fancy, just a note of what you plan to do.
- Create & Maintain a Research Log – This is really important as it enables you to track what you have looked at and what you have found, so be sure to record positive AND negative results.
- Managing Research Results is important, otherwise you will drown in data. Decide how you are going to process your data – enter it straight into a family history programme, or an Excel file. You could add to Evernote or One-Note. There is no right or wrong way, find what is best for you. Make sure that you record the citations of the information you find, perhaps this is a newspaper article, or information from a parish record, the purpose of a citation is essentially to share with others where you saw the information, so that they, if they wish can follow your research.
- Connecting with others – This is really important. Firstly you get to share your journey with others and you can connect with others who might share the same interest. You could set up a Facebook Group (or Page, although I prefer Groups). You might use a Twitter account, you might join organisations such as the Guild of One-Name Studies or Society of One-Place Studies, you could add your place to the Register for One-Place Studies. Another avenue to explore is the facilities of archives, libraries or museums – if your surname “hotbed” or place is located in a particular County check out the archives, include local museums and share your interest with them. They might help you connect with others with the same interest.
- Bring your data together – in this element we are concerned with family reconstruction, essentially putting families together, using primary source material. You can also draw out an individual timeline, such as I described HERE that way you can see what your individual was doing at a particular time and you can see what is missing and then consider where you could look for that data.
- Share Material – Having worked really hard to gather and expand your collected data, I would recommend enabling others to see it. You can do this in a variety of ways, write a blog, have a website, write articles, share stories via Facebook.
- Preserve Your Work – If you are a member of the Guild of One-Name Studies with a registered surname, you can signup to a Members Website Project. That enables you to advertise your study, display it for others and preserve it, all the while working on your project.
A frame work for this kind of project is not clear cut and it does not need to be. The one consistent & important thing is that you set the perimeters for your study. You choose your starting place and then do the hardest thing….start. If the way you have started does not feel right or comfortable then stop and look at what is not working and what is then carry on.
When the Guild for formed in 1979 the only way to collect material was by visiting St Catherine’s in London and extract by hand the appearance of your surname, quarter by quarter. It was fairly hefty work and laborious, but people kept going. In the modern days it is easier to go to FreeBMD, but that even does not necessarily contain all the references.
The only way to reconstruct family groups was to work through the registration districts and then each venue in turn. A Guild member said to me once, that there was no point in collecting those, as they were nothing more than an index and in part they are correct, but that time consuming process was undertaken by a generation of genealogists and is very much woven into the history of one-name studies.
Try out Tip – Look at the surnames in your family. Which one lends itself to a Surname Project or One-Name study? If you were going to embark on such a project what would you do first to get going and why?