“Migrating to the Cloud – Part 1″ described the process that my son and I have been using to move from a genealogy 1.0 (desktop-based) system to genealogy 2.0 (in the Cloud). In that post, I alluded to one perennial issue that I face — namely, the use (or lack thereof) of a research calendar / log. I have struggled with this because I am not over-burdened with repeating searches. Since I often engage in “rabbit trail” genealogical searches (that is, beginning in one direction and then moving off on one or more tangents – sometimes tangents off of tangents), no repeat search is likely to pursue just exactly the same ground. In some cases, especially when it involves a direct line ancestor, I will make note of an unsuccessful search, but that has been more the exception than the rule.
Before I get drummed out of the genealogy club, however, I must say that my Research Wiki (see “Migrating to the Cloud – Part 1“) serves as a substitute for a research calendar / log. It is not a 100% analogous, but it serves me fairly well. There was, however, one perspective on the data that has been missing – the overall view of what has been found and what is still missing for each individual. I had developed a check-list in the Research Wiki, but it was too unwieldly to use. So it is time to go back to the drawing board.
I went to FamilySearch’s Research Wiki and read the article, “Keeping a Research Log.” I also watched the two videos by G. David Dilts that were referenced in the footnotes (part 1, part 2). A couple of things impressed me. First, this describes an extremely thorough-going approach to chronicling one’s research (more effort, however, than I think would be productive for me). Second, the system was developed for and dependent upon paper. Dilts asks that everything be printed to paper and filed, even if you are maintaining the records (and logs) on a computer. His hesitation about computers is that “100 years from now will your descendants even know how to turn on a computer?” While I might concede his point that computers may not have a long future ahead of them, I am confident that a variety of forms of digital record-keeping will persist and/or be developed. And, as new systems are developed, ways of transitioning digital data from older systems will also be available. I’d rather leave my descendents a more compact set of digital records, transitioned to new protocols as time demanded, rather than filing cabinets full of papers.
I was heartened to read a bit of sage advice on the DoHistory.org website which has an interesting article on “Stages of a Historical Research Project:”
“Please remember, however, that if you feel what you are doing is valuable and fulfilling, then it doesn’t matter so much what other people think. Learn about accepted skills and standards of historical research, be accurate and thorough,build within a historical context, and then do what you think is best.”
So… taking stock, I would acknowledge that my Research Wiki provides me with a good system for storing and organizing my genealogy documents and images. It also provides a place for me to list source citations for the data that I have found. And, while it may be genealogical heresy, I am not interested in becoming a repository for original genealogcial documents. I am satisfied to work with digital images and to return all return documents to their owners. One thing is missing, however — an over-all view of what data I have and what is missing — especially for our direct line ancestors. Also, the article on “Keeping a Research Log” on the FamilySearch Research Wiki, listed a series of tasks to perform after each search (one set of steps if the search fails to find relevant data; another, when the search is positive). That list of tasks provided me with a base for asking myself “What are the steps I take to secure, store, and organize the data I find in my research?” This question lead to a productive inner conversation about how I process the data I find (or don’t find).
Two separate tasks began to come together in my mind — processing steps and broad-based overview of the data. I developed a spreadsheet with Columns grouped under 10 general categories (Birth/Early Years… Education… Marriage… Death… Immigration & Naturalization… Military… Census Records… Employment… Estate… Miscellaneous). Each category has multiple columns, each describing one type of record within that category. (See an example below.) The spreadsheet’s Rows contain lists of direct line ancestors grouped by Surname, ordered by Ancestral Lines Pairing System reference numbers (see my post that describes these numbers).
There are seven possible entries for each item:
- cop = copied indicates that a web page has been clipped, a file downloaded, or a document scanned
- fil = filed indicates that the information has been copied and filed in the Research Wiki
- ent = entered indicates that the information has been copied, filed, and entered into TNG
- cit = cited indicates that a full citation has been written for this record (note: when I am not entering this directly into the Research Wiki or the TNG website, I will put the citation information in Evernote)
- X indicates that the information has been copied, filed, entered, and cited.
- DNF indicates that relevant information was found
- blank cell indicates that I do not have source information, but does not indicate a negative search.
The first speadsheet has been for the direct line ancestors for the Brenner portion of the family tree. I will also develop a similar spreadsheet for the direct line ancestors in the Weaver side (my wife’s lineage) of the family tree.
I am currently in the process of filling out this spreadsheet. I have found it very helpful in helping me track the migration of information from my hard drive to the Research Wiki and to RM5 (and eventually to TNG). This system would probably not work for a professional / certified genealogist, but it works for me. Will I miss some things? Probably. Will I repeat searches that I had already completed with negative results? Likely. Will I be able to find every bit of data that I know I have. Perhaps not. The upside to this approach is that I have already been doing most of it. I can adapt the process as I go along. And, I am thoroughly enjoying what I am doing. That seems to be enough for me.