Monday, April 28, 2008

The Pace of Genealogy Research - Post 3

In the first two posts of this series, I've discussed how online genealogy passes by some genealogy researchers (in Post 1) and how some new genealogy researchers don't realize that there is more to genealogy than online research (in Post 2).

How has the "Pace" of Genealogy Research, resulting from near instantaneous availability of results from indexes, databases, images, etc. affected my own genealogy research patterns? Besides the obvious "I can find many facts, stories or leads quicker than ever before," I think it has affected me in these ways:

1) I do much more research online in the available resources rather than go to the FHC, the library or an ancestral locality. I do online research almost every day, but I go to the library or FHC to do research only 2 or 3 times a month. If I'm lucky, I get to an ancestral location once a year.

2) I can review many of the resources that are in published books, FHL microfiche databases and FHL or NARA microfilms (e.g., census, passenger lists, etc.) in a short period of time in online databases with every-name indexes. It used to take weeks to obtain, find and copy these documents or information.

3) I don't keep careful records of what web sites, databases or images I visit or view. I used to keep a research log for each family surname - I'm not disciplined enough to do that now - it would take a long time to track all of my clicks. I'm sure that I duplicate searches almost every day. When I am doing "real research" (meaning doing a "reasonably exhaustive search" in all resources (not just online) as opposed to a "survey" search to find leads to sources and information), I use several forms to collect information on the ancestral family I'm working on - an online search summary (see a typical list here), a family research summary (all possible resources), a timeline, etc. I put these in my research notebook and consult them frequently.

4) I am able to capture images from databases, web pages, articles, etc. and put them in my computer files easily. I rarely make xerox copies at libraries or the FHC any longer, since nearly everything I read there is now online somewhere. If I read a microfilm or microfiche at the FHC, I can save the page images to my USB drive and plant them on my hard drive at home.

5) Having images in digital format, I can transcribe or abstract text right into my genealogy software database using my handy "split screen" method. When everything was on paper, I had to transcribe or abstract from the paper copy which was often difficult to read, even with a magnifying glass.

6) I can make many more errors in putting families together if I'm not careful. With more experience has come skepticism about the work of other researchers and my own assumptions of connections between parents and children.

That's enough for now - what effects have you noticed from the increased "pace of genealogy research" in your own research?

1 comment:

Thomas MacEntee said...

Another great post in this series Randy. I work much the same way with my online subscriptions to Ancestry, Footnote and NEHGS etc.

But here's what I do differently:

- I do keep track of where I found an item. I've been channeling the good favor of footnoteMaven that she may look down upon me and approve. So, if I can't add the reference into FTM at that time (using this format for example: Baldwin, Thomas W., Vital Records of Wrentham, Massachusetts To The Year 1850, Boston, Massachusetts: The New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1910, (, accessed April 23, 2008, citing p. 155.), I add the info in the Comments section of the image I capture so I don't have to say "Now where did I find that image?"