Genealogists spend a lot of time doing research about their family members and ancestors. This type of research can feel overwhelming. Getting distracted can make your research less productive. One tip to prevent this problem is to intentionally stick with one piece of research at a time.
Pick One Specific Thing to Focus On
It is understandable that you want to learn everything you can about your ancestors. That desire can cause people to be impulsive researchers. They start out looking for one thing, and then jump to another resource that might help them find a completely different thing.
Keep it simple, and stick to one specific thing at a time. Write down your goal so that you can refer back to it when you start getting side tracked. For example, let’s say your goal is to find great great aunt Martha’s birth certificate. Focus your research there. Avoid the temptation to stray from your goal because you suddenly wonder if she was in the military, or want to know what high school she attended.
Make a List of Helpful Data
What information do you already have that can help you to locate great great aunt Martha’s birth certificate? Make a list of those helpful things. Go down the list, one by one, and see what you can glean from it. Don’t move to the next item on the list until after exhausting the first one.
For example, let’s say you have a copy of great great aunt Martha’s marriage certificate. It might show what her “maiden name” was. Try putting her “maiden name” into the online genealogy websites. You might get different results.
What if that doesn’t lead to anything useful? Move to the next item on the list. Do you have a copy of great great aunt Martha’s wedding announcement that was in the local newspaper? What church was the wedding held in? Where was the newspaper sold? Information like that could reveal where she was born and raised.
Keep a List for Later
There are two ways to do this. One way is to make a list of all the genealogy websites and other resources that you intend to use as you search for great great aunt Martha’s birth certificate. Start with the first one. After you exhaust it, cross it off the list and move to the next one.
The other way to make a “list for later” is to jot down the information you find that might possible tell you more about great great aunt Martha (but aren’t what you are searching for right now). Write down your idle thoughts about where else to search. Make a note of information that you think could lead to aunt Martha’s death certificate, or her high school yearbook. Save those for later.
Image by Jon Jordan on Flickr.
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