Thanks to Valerie Brown Elkins and Tonia Kendrick an online group has been formed to study American Records (US-REC). I am delighted to be part of that group. We will be spending the next 15 months studying Val D. Greenwood’s The Researchers Guide to American Genealogy and The Source: A Guidebook Of American Genealogy by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking. In addition to those wonderful print resources we will, of course, be resources for one another.
Our first month’s task has been a) to read Greenwood’s chapter on “Organizing and Evaluating Research Findings,” b) assess our own organization using 20 different statements [such as “1. My research notes are simple enough that anyone can understand them.” and “My notes indicate the purpose of every search made.”] , and c) take one or more steps to improve organization.
My Self Assessment — My rating score was 52 out of 80 (6 4s, 4 3s, 6 2s, and 4 1s). According to the rating scale we used that puts me in the following category:
Total Score: 51-70– You are already pretty organized, but there are a few areas that could be tightened up. Pick one or two items from the list to work on. These could be things that you do“sometimes,” but not “usually” or “almost always.” Or maybe there is some aspect of your system that is just not working for you; take this opportunity to try a new way of doing things.
My Strengths: I have developed a Research Wiki for maintaining my research. (A full description of my Research Wiki will be in a blog post following this one.) Using the Research Wiki has helped me develop a system that is easily accessible for those who follow; complete enough that others can use my notes to locate their sources; files cross-referenced (using hot links) by type and by individual; records that are difficult to read are noted; when searches fail to find sought after records such a notation is made. In conclusion, my Research Wiki has provided me easy access to files, citations, and images.
My Weaknesses: I do not regularly indicate the purpose of searches; nor write regular research reports to myself (except when I develop blog posts about my research); and seldom prepare a short research summary when I reach a stopping point.
My Uncertainty: I had difficulty relating to two statements in the assessment tool — namely, #14 (“I cross-reference my research logs to each other when I have more than one surname in a locality, rather than making identical logs for each surname.”) and #15 (“I keep a copy of the appropriate portion of my pedigree in every research file.”) When doing research, I have a copy of my Research Wiki open on one screen, while my RootsMagic database pedigree is open on my second screen. (This keeps me in touch with the necessary pedigrees.) I keep my hard drive (genealogy > surname) folder open and minimized. New findings, documents, records, images, and citations are then filed where appropriate (with hot links) in the Research Wiki; digital copies are also filed in the appropriate individual’s file on my hard drive. I have not found any need to keep records by locality (even though this seems to be a primary function of Greenwood’s recommended organizational system. When I need to check on specific localities, I can print a “place list” from my RootsMagic database and see all the facts and events related to that locality. I am curious about why Greenwood considers locality such a primary factor in a research organizer. Can anyone explain that to me?
In order to improve the quality of my research organization I will:
- for the next 4-6 weeks, write a brief summary at the end of each day’s research, “so that I can quickly pick up the line of research again, whether it is days, months, or years later” and
- for the next 4-6 weeks, write a weekly research report to my son (since he is my partner in our genealogy project)
At the end of 4-6 weeks, I will review what I have done and make decisions about how to proceed in those areas.
I have to admit that I have some ambivalence about recording “the purpose of every search made.” In the past, there have been times when a search for one record or for records about one person lead in different and unexpected directions. I have often followed those new directions. Sometimes they have been “rabbit trails” producing little of value; other times, however, they have led me to places and resources I hadn’t expected. I’m willing to be a bit more intentional about “purpose” for searches, but I am not willing to establish any goals at this time.