With one research log per surname, I've been using them to record letters I've written requesting documents that are not available online. They've served that purpose well but with online research my logs have fallen short of the need. (And I've fallen short in using them to record all the online searches I've done including what I've found, and especially what I've not found.)
I would not have thought about evaluating my research log except that it was one of the topics in the Genealogy Do-Over. I've been looking at the ways others have created and organized their research logs. Here are some things I've found.
Earlier this year Diane Haddad of Family Tree Magazine wrote a post at Genealogy Insider about her research log. Hers includes columns to record this information: Status, Research Task, Repository/Site, Name, Place, Notes, Prep Work Needed, and Findings. She keeps hers as a spreadsheet on Google Drive, which makes it available wherever she can connect to the internet.
The FamilySearch Wiki on Research Logs suggests recording this information in a log: Ancestor's name and years; Researcher's name; Date of search; Place of research; Purpose (objective); Call number; Source Description; Scope of Your Search; Document Number; and Results.
In his post for Genealogy Do-Over Week 4, Thomas MacEntee indicated that he recorded the following information when tracking searches: date of search; website; specific database; criteria of search (what he typed in the search box); results (with url); plus notes on the search and results including analysis or thoughts.
After reading about others' research logs and seeing the information they track, I think I'd like my research log to include
- Date of search or request
- Objective/Purpose of the search/Research Goal (the question I'm trying to answer, what I hope to find)
- Where I searched or who I asked: repository, courthouse, library, website including addresses and contact info for all
- Specifics about search criteria (name, dates, and any other information used in the search)
- Results (what I found or didn't find) and date if different from search date
- Source (where I found the information with enough detail to let me return to the source easily)
- Copy? Do I now have a copy, either hard or computer image?
- Next Possible Steps -- a to-do list, of sorts, based on what I found/didn't find (which I will also record in a separate To-Do list)
My research logs are in tables in WordPerfect since I don't like spreadsheets. I like having them there but I wonder if they may be less cumbersome to use if they are in a place like Evernote. Colleen Greene wrote a post about her research log on Evernote which generated plenty of discussion in the comments section. I will investigate further before completely changing my log to Evernote or any other online cloud storage system. Evernote is currently free and available wherever I have access to a computer, but I know it may not always be so. One can never depend on technology staying the same or continuing to be available for free in the future.
As an aside, I'd like to note that while I don't always use my research log for online searches I continue to save the results of searches plus all pertinent details (such as direct link, collection name, page and image numbers, and any other details I can find) by sending myself emails with the information. It's very cumbersome. Hence my need to become more serious about using a research log for all searches.
So, that's what I've been up to with my Genealogy Do-Over / Do-Better this past week. I'm excited to create a new research log and begin using it. Thanks to Thomas MacEntee for creating the Genealogy Do-Over. Participating is showing me some of my shortcoming as a family history researcher.
Read more about the Genealogy Do-Over here at GeneaBloggers and here at bagtheweb.
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