Hello, today we are going to discuss the importance
of staying organized and documenting as you go when doing genealogical research. This
will help you out in the long run and you’ll thank yourself later.
It is always good to get started on the right track when it comes to researching your family.
There are many different ways to you can do this when it comes to genealogy. You can use
computer software, an online program or it can be as simple as keeping a binder and some
folders. Just find a system that works for you and stay with it!
One way to help you stay organized while doing your research is by using a Research Log also
known as a Research Calendar. You can use this form to document when you
search, and what has or has NOT been found. This tool will help you to organize and keep
track of your work. By using a research log you will be able to: cite your sources, know what information you already have, eliminate or reduce duplicate searches,
document your search strategies, and keep track of your documents and records. You can find copies of research logs in instructional
genealogy books or online through many libraries and genealogy sites. You might be asking yourself what kind of
information should I be keeping track of in my research log?
Write down: Who were you looking for?
What is your research goal? The date of your search
Where were you looking –include the name of the repository or online site
What sources did you look at? –were they records, newspapers, or websites?
Keep track of everything you looked at even if you didn’t find what you were looking
for. Find documents that provide clues about the
ancestor’s life. For example, look for birth, marriage and death records. Also check wills,
deeds, tax and court records. Remember that if Aunt Edna told you stories that she knows
to be true, you still need to back it up with one or more primary sources. Overall while doing your research it is important
to document all of your sources. Just as important as it is to document and
find information and records to back up your claims, it is vital for you to cite your sources when
doing genealogical research. Think back to school research projects where
you had to have a bibliography. You can pick the format you are most comfortable using
when citing sources. You just want to make sure you get all the basic information down
– this is why it is important to keep the research log.
If you are copying a page out of a book, make a copy of the title page, too. If you are
copying something out of a newspaper — you may zoom in on your article, then copy the
page it’s on so you can see the source information, as well as the front page of the paper. When
in doubt — make a copy — you don’t want to have to duplicate efforts if you find you
need it later on. It is a good idea to check with the repository
where you are researching what their preferred way of making copies. You can usually make
photocopies, print things out or take photos with a digital camera.
There are numerous genealogy citation and organization guides in both print and online
that you can consult to find the system that works best and save you a headache in the
long-run. Once you have a system in place don’t forget researching your family history
should be fun and not like pulling teeth. If you need further assistance about staying
organized or have questions about genealogy please contact the Information Services Desk
of the State Library of North Carolina’s Government and Heritage Library.