Genealogy Seminar and Classes

Research Logs, a Useful Genealogical Tool.

Have you ever been searching a set of records thinking, have you searched these before? Have you ever run out of time mid research and had to step away only to come back and forget what you were searching for? Research logs are a useful genealogical tool to organize your search. Properly used research logs can help you record each time you research an ancestor. Research logs are for all levels of genealogist beginner, intermediate and advanced.

If you are like me, you have lots of notebooks filled with research notes. Notes that are never viewed but you have to keep them for the day when you decide to look at them. I have not been a fan of using research logs but after many years of research and many duplicate searches I have concluded that keeping a research log is the best way to organize your research.

Research logs are a tool to keep track of the records you have searched and the results of that search. You can include who you were searching for and what terms you searched. Documenting this information as you perform each search prevents you from repeating the same search later.

Another benefit of using a research log is that you can document your source citations as you search. This helps prove the reliability of your research. Research logs contain all your research in one place. They can be organized by an individual or by family.

Here are a couple of different types of research logs:

  • Paper research logs can be found online.
  • Microsoft word or excel is a great place to create your research log.
  • Evernote or OneNote is also a place you can create and save a research log.
  • Genealogical software has built-in research logs.

Some details that should include in your research logs are ancestors’ names and dates, date of research, source citations, details found during the search, what repository you searched, the goal of your research session, and the results of your research.  If nothing was found during this research session, it should be noted in the research log.               

One way I have found to organize my active research is to keep them in a file folder with my research log on the front of the folder. I make a note of each search I perform on the front of the folder.  I then add any document I have located inside the folder with the source citation included on the document. This has helped me organize my searches. This has helped me to stay focused on my goal and not repeat the research.    

There are so many different ways you can keep a research log. You have to decide what is the best way for you. The most important thing to remember is to make sure you use the research log every time you do a search.  This is one of the most powerful tools you can use in your family history research. Using a research log will save you time and provide a reference.

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