Last week-end, I had a 3 hour car ride to contemplate what my “ideal” research log would look like. I had printed out my notes for Joseph Scott (1832-1914, Russell County, Kentucky) and purposely did not bring along anything else so that I would be totally focused on the one family. For 3 hours, I read and re-read the notes jotting down questions and making sure all my little scraps of paper and post-it notes were included. I decided to create a 1 page document with Joseph’s basic vital information along with a timeline of locations for his family. After that, I began making a list of questions I have along with a list of sources I could search to find the answers. I also included sources I had already searched.
Of course, I used Excel to create the log so that it will be easy to update and easy to adapt to other ancestors. I had already created a database of sources available at the Allen County Library for the counties I research in, so those sources were easy to add to the log. I’m in the process of searching the Kentucky Archives catalog and the FHL catalog for additional sources that I don’t have access to at the library. I’ll also add web sites that could help my research. My ultimate goal for the log is to have a record that I can add to my ancestor’s folder so that when I grab the folder to take to the library, the log will be waiting. I’ll know what I’ve already researched and what I want to look-up on my next trip. I need to be able to update it quickly, especially if I read an interesting article or twitter tweet that gives me a new idea of a source to search. But more than anything, I need to FEEL organized and confident that I have thoroughly analyzed my notes and that I don’t need to take the time to analyze them again. That, more than anything, keeps me from working on my research. I don’t usually work on my research unless I have a full day – which I seldom have during the school year. So if I can take smaller chunks of time to do the analyzing – and creating the log – then I’ll be more likely to jump into my research when opportunities do present themselves.
So here my the first version of my research log. While I don’t want this log template to become a huge project, I am trying to think if there are other things I need to add to be as effective as possible. It just occurred to me that I should include a list of people that I know are also searching Joseph along with email and snail mail addresses.
Please feel free to comment if you think something else would be helpful!