Seeking the Win-Win in Genealogy Football

The Genealogical Touchdown32 . . . 12 . . . 8 . . . 4 . . . 2 . . . . There’s no such thing as a win-win in football, unless it’s two consecutive wins. This is the obvious goal of the NFL Conference Championship games today. Only two teams will triumph on their respective playing fields . . . . Two more weeks and only one team will prevail and claim the Lombardi trophy at Super Bowl XLVIII.

I’ll leave the commentary to the NFL analysts. They’re good at what they do. But if you’ve been following along with genealogy football, the same principle applies: win, and win again! The objective is to win from the first down to touchdown again and again for as long as there is time on the clock. It’s the play-by-play effort that makes the difference. One can never win in the present what the future holds. It is elusive. But, if in the present a play is successfully executed, and then the next, and then the next, soon the outcome is the goal and the goal this season is your Family History Bowl.

One of the ways you can track your plays is with a research log, or research calendar as some call it. When you track your plays you keep on track. There are many ways to keep this log so that it can be an effective tool as you make your plays: paper and pencil, a pre-printed form [like the one from Ancestry.com], a spreadsheet, your database computer program, or your favorite journaling app. A research log is kept for each individual or family in your lineage. It’s traditionally suggested that a child remain the subject of his or her parents’ log until that child marries. One of my favorite things about automated logs is that with tagging and/or search capacity that child who became a parent can be found on either log. [This log may be incorporated into a research report, but remember that a report that contains suggestions for further research may be completely outdated on the day of review. Check for updated availability of records.]

Recently, I was going through a fifth-generation grandfather’s file. The research I completed for him is decades old but a question came to mind. When I opened the folder I found a piece of paper with a list of sources I had reviewed and the result for consulting each particular source. The paper was dated, written in pencil, and did not look like more than scratch, but it was as if this piece of paper, this research log, transported me back in time to briefly relive the plays, make the catch, and enabled me to run and score the genealogical touchdown. The answer was found among the documents that I had already secured. It’s not always this easy, but it is always the place that you, as a researcher, want to begin. The research log is your punt return; it shows your position on the field and where to begin your drive for that touchdown!

Over the years as I have reviewed the work of a number of genealogists, including my own, I have found that the key to efficiency is the research log. It’s helpful to know what information was sought for and why, the title of the record and in what form the record was recorded, whether online, microfilm or fiche, or paper, the date [especially when using online databases], the place where the information was accessed and the result, even if what you were looking for was not there. By recording this information you will be in great field position to evaluate the source, identify inconsistencies, make wise judgements about the contribution of this source to your research, and determine where your next play begins. Wishing you all the success on this game day!

[In it’s simplicity, The Genealogical Touchdown Playbook is available in PDF format for personal, non-commercial use. It provides a place for interested youth, and others, to record their drive downfield to the ultimate genealogical touchdown!]

Copyright ©2014 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

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