Oh my goodness, guys, seriously. Research logs are the BEST. I’m not gonna lie, when I first started out my family history journey, I was so annoyed by using research logs because it seems like such an annoying, extra step that in the end would be a waste of my time.
Guess what? I was wrong.
Research logs are the bomb!
By logging all of the searches that you have done, you can make sure not to repeat any searches you have previously made and you can have information at the ready to help with later searches.
There are several different ways you can do a research log. There are programs like Research Ties (that you must pay for by the way) that can allow you to make a research log. RootsMagic also has a research log function. You can also go a little bit more simple and use Excel or a table in Word. Here’s an example of how I usually do my research logs in Word:
Regardless of how you decide to create your research log, there are a few things that are necessary for a research log. These are: date, search parameters, which repositories you were searching, your findings (and I recommend getting really detailed here), and citations.
One of the huge things that we have been talking about in my family history classes so far this semester is the idea of analyzing and correlating information from the records that you find. Analyzing the information is basically pulling out all of the relevant information that you can from a document (and sometimes there is more important information in documents than you think there is). Correlating information is tying that information back into the information that you already have. Like making sure that the marriage record you found could be your ancestors based on information you’ve already found in birth records, censuses, and locality research.
Research logs are a great place to do your analyzing–you can put that right in your “Findings” tab. And it is the beginnings of correlation too because you are writing the information into your research log, you are automatically going to start correlating as well as when writing research reports or correlating information for further searches, the information is already right there.
Even though I think research logs are the best, I admit that sometimes I am still really bad at them. I just get going on a research question with my family and soon I’ve done a million different searches and I have no idea which were good and which led to nothing. So. Together we can work on slowing down a little bit. Enjoy the small details. And we will thank ourselves later.