Thursday, July 26, 2012

Trees and logs

Perhaps I should have read the instructions before I started. 

Instead I've learned about family history research by trial and error as I've gone along. There's so much genealogical information available on the internet these days that it's easy to keep following one trail after another, collecting bits and pieces along the way that seem interesting or potentially useful. The result can be a hard-drive full of disorganised notes, files, and images. 

Fortunately since I have a bit of an obsessive streak, I've kept things fairly organised, and left myself trail markers. I've taken care to keep a record of where I've found information. I've also made sure that I've excluded every other possible explanation of a fact before I add new details to the family history. 

But I'm starting to regret that I haven't kept any systematic record of what I've excluded. Sometimes I find myself going back over the same search results on the same database because I can't remember whether I've tried a particular combination of search terms before or not. I know I had a good reason for deciding that this Thomas Ward was not the Thomas Ward I was looking for, but six months later I can't always remember why. 

 Maybe that's the reason why most 'Introduction to Genealogy' articles recommend keeping a research log, that details exactly what you've looked for, and where, and what the results were (useful or otherwise.) I guess it's never too late to start.

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