One of the best parts about family history research is being able to share the information and stories that you find with other family members. There are so many ways to do this nowadays, but all have one thing in common. We want to do the best job we can with our research, so the people we are sharing with can understand what we found. We also want to know that we have found the correct information. After all, who wants to have someone else’s ancestors on their family tree? Here are two tried and true, simple tips for doing a great job with your work and sharing it the best way possible.
1. Summarize Your Work
The very act of writing out a summary of your knowledge will help you with your research. Be certain to put a footnote for the source citation of every piece of information you have. If you don’t have a source, this will appear as an empty footnote, which will show you where additional research needs to be done. When I am writing up my research, I also include information that I don’t even have yet. For example, if I don’t know when and where someone died, I write “He died.” Putting a footnote with no source provides the flag that I need to know that more research needs to be done.
2. Genealogical Review
This is a trick from the experienced professionals. Have one or two people who are experienced and competent genealogists look at your research. They will see things that you don’t. It is simply human nature. If we have too much information in our brains, then we fill in the blanks when we are reading. Those with less information cannot fill in the blanks, and can more easily find missing pieces or assumptions in our work. These reviewers may also be able to give you some ideas on how to move find solutions.
3. Writing Review
Once you have gone back and filled in the missing pieces with additional research, it is time for an independent review of your writing. It is a well-known fact — writers cannot edit themselves. It is vitally important to have someone else read through it. They will find typographical as well as grammatical errors. It is best to have someone with writing and/or editing. If you are publishing a book-length work, it is absolutely critical to have a professional editor look at your work. This is not as difficult a process as many fear, and in the end it will serve only to save you the embarrassment of publishing a work filled with problems.
Whether you are writing on a blog, an essay for your family members, or a book, these three steps will serve you well. They will ensure that people can trust your work, and that you have interpreted it correctly.