Just like other projects, genealogical research works best when you have a plan. Learn how to create a research plan that will guide you throughout the research process and keep you on track as you dive deeper into your family history research.
1. Assess Your Initial Goals and Interests
Take a moment and think about what initially inspired you to start looking into your family’s past. Were you interested in a specific family member? Or was it just general interest in your family’s past? Assessing your initial goals and interests will help you choose an appropriate research path.
2. Evaluate the Information you Have Already Discovered
Once you have re-evaluated your initial family history interests, take a moment to review the information you gathered in the past. Often you will discover new avenues for research. Discovering new goals is completely normal and to be expected. The constant discovery of new information is one of the reasons why genealogy often becomes a lifetime hobby for many.
3. Create Research Goals and Objectives
The next step is to start creating research objectives. These are the building blocks that will help you solve the mysteries in your family history, and will help break down your search into attainable tasks. One of the best ways to create these objectives is to first focus on one or two of your goals.
An initial goal can be anything from looking for a specific person or family, to answering a research question about the living conditions of your ancestors.
Examples of Research Goals are:
- Locate the place from which my great-grandmother came.
- Complete the family group sheet for my great grandfather’s family.
- Identify when and where was my great uncle born.
Once you decide on the research goals that you would like to initially pursue, you can then create research objectives to help you discover your goal. For example, if your goal is to find out where your great-grandmother immigrated from, research objectives could include:
- When was your great-grandmother born?
- At which port did your great-grandmother arrive?
- Did she travel alone, or with family and/or friends?
All of the questions above are considered research objectives. Before you visit a repository or start your online research, take some time to record a few initial goals and two research objectives for each goal.
4. Identify Potential Record Sources
Now it is time to use your research log to record potential sources. Download your free research log now. A research log can help you keep track of the sources that you have already examined, and those you plan to use during your genealogical research. By diligently recording your research steps, you will be able to easily cross-reference new information with what you have previously found.
5. Examine and Record Your Sources
The information that you should record on your research log before you search includes:
- Name of your ancestor
- Your selected research objective
- Source to examine
- Repository or source location
Once you record all of this information on your research log, you are ready to start your search. After you have finished your search, record the following information:
- Source examination date
- Complete source citation (title, author, publication data)
- Notes on findings
- Whether or not you made a photocopy or transcription
- Whether this source requires further examination
After you have recorded this information in your research log, take the data relating to an individual relative or family such as dates and places, and transfer the information onto your pedigree chart, onto your family group sheet, and into your genealogy database and/or word processor. Each additional entry gets you one step closer to making new discoveries.