Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Research Logs in Genealogy Software

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I decided to start updating my Research Logs so that I could add them into the genealogy management programs I use.  True confessions:  I started out in 1988 writing on my Research Log forms, but many years ago, I stopped doing the logs even though I kept adding content to my surname notebooks. 

My goal is to create Research Logs for my most elusive ancestors - the Brick Wall problems, such as William Knapp (1775-1856) for whom I cannot find parents despite almost 24 years of searching published and unpublished information in books, periodicals, microfilms, typescripts, etc. 

I use RootsMagic 4 at present as my master program, but often use Legacy Family Tree 7 and Family Tree Maker 2012 for some functions that RootsMagic does not do as well.

Before I typed up a Research Log for William Knapp, I wanted to see how the different software programs handle Research Logs or Notes.  I found that only Legacy Family Tree 7 offered a blank Research Log form (Reports > Research Log > Preview):


However, Legacy Family Tree does not have a "fill-in-the-columns" format for a Research Log.  You have to print out the blank form, and fill it in by hand, or create your own form using a word processor.

What about Research Logs or "Research Notes" in the different genealogy management programs? 

1)  RootsMagic 4 does not have a "Research Notes" or "Research Log" function, at least one that's easily found.  The user could add Research Log information to the Person "Notes" field, but they may not want to do that.  Because my Brick Wall problem is the parents of William Knapp, I created a "Father" for William Knapp named "Knapp" and copy/pasted my Research Log text into the Notes for that Person:


UPDATED:  Reader Carol noted:  "Go To Reports > Lists > Reports > Blank reports > research log."

That does provide a blank Research Log form that can be printed and filled in. 

Reader Nettie commented:  "RootsMagic has a Reports/All Reports/Research Notes which is for an individual person, which has your Source Citation in the footnotes, Items in the Details Text and Items in the Detail Comments section. Detail Comments are notes created that you think this is the right source, what and why or disagree with. This was set up with Elizabeth Shown Mills help and suggestions."

So RootsMagic does provide a Research Notes report (I missed it when I looked yesterday...) that provides a notes summary for a person or a family provided the user has input Research Note information for Facts and Sources.

2)  Legacy Family Tree 7 has a "Notes" icon with three tabs - "General Notes," "Research Notes" and "Medical notes."  I clicked on the "Research Notes" tab and copied the "Research Log" post into the field:


I can edit that information with the simple editing tools provided by LFT 7.

UPDATE:  Geoff Rasmussen, developer of Legacy Family Tree, noted in comments:  " Legacy's Research Log is accessed by clicking on the "To Do List" icon for the person. Depending on how their list is filtered, it becomes either a Research Log or a To Do List, or combined."

Connie Sheets added:  "it is extremely flexible and powerful. I don't know why more people don't use all its features.  It won't look like a traditional research log, but it certainly serves the purpose, and contains all the necessary information (and then some)."

On Google Plus, Tessa Keough commented:  "I use Legacy and have found that the General To-Dos and the Individual To-Dos work great for a research log. You do need to spend some time at the outset with the layout (determine the output you want and this determines your input). You need to be consistent and organize by task, category, and type - but that is pretty easy to get accustomed to and your description can add as much or as little information as you want.

"I make a point in the task section to list the date followed by two space a hyphen then two more spaces before typing the task (it clearly more clearly and puts in date order). Then mark items as percentage done, list your partial and full results. When you complete a research task, don't delete it just mark it closed (for positive and negative results). Then you have all your research (done and undone) for an individual, or a category (census), or a locality (Minnesota Historical Society Library), etc. There are several filtering options in addition to the above mentioned one. This works great when I am looking up death certificates (filtered for all at one repository, all in date order, I list the cert id # in the title). I work through the list and enter the information into the results section."
This capability is important, and I will write about it in a future post.

3)  In Family Tree Maker 2012, there is a "Research Notes" icon in the "Notes" tab in the Person tab in the People workspace.  I clicked on the "Research Notes" tab and copied the "Research Log" information into the text field:


I can edit that information with the simple editing tools provided by FTM 2012. 

These fields in Family Tree Maker 2012 and Legacy Family Tree 7 are text only - so the user has to type the information either into a text document or into the program screen fields.  Tables from a word processor don't work being copied and pasted into the "Research Notes" fields (I tried!). 

Russ Worthington, in his blog post FTM2012 Research Log, described how he has created and maintained a general Task List and a To Do list for specific persons.  All of them show up in a Task List Report.

4)  Some quandaries that I have:

*  I created the Research Log for the entire surname, not just for William Knapp.  Not all of the information in the Log is for William Knapp - most of it is my attempt to find information about his unknown parents.   Should I have put the Research Log into William Knapp's "Research Notes" tabs in the software?

*  It might make more sense to put the "Research Log" for the surname into an "Ancestral Father with no given name" in the database.  That way it's there and will show up in an Ancestral Report, or in an Individual Report for that "ancestral father." That's what I did for the RootsMagic case where there was no "Research Notes" screen.

*  I have created a narrative report (a summary from the Research Log and all of the research done for the elusive ancestor) on "The Parents of William Knapp" (and other Brick Wall ancestors) and could
create the "Ancestral Father with no given name" in the database and copy/paste the narrative report.  Again, that would provide research background for anyone who picks up the research, and it would appear in Ancestral Reports and Individual Reports for that person. 

*  Will the "Research Notes" in Legacy Family Tree 7 and Family Tree Maker 2012 transfer in a GEDCOM file and/or in a sync with an Ancestry Member Tree (only in FTM 2012 obviously)?

What have you done?  How have you documented your research efforts to find the parents of your Brick Wall ancestors?  Are they only in documents put in your surname notebooks, or do you put them into your genealogy management program?  If so, where do you put them?

Updated 24 November, 10 a.m.:  Added information as noted above based on reader comments.

Reader Louis Kessler commented:  "Here's my thinking out of the box way to implement a research log that is minimal imposition on the user, i.e. it practically happens automatically. Simply, for each source, include a 'date/time item was researched'.  The program will normally order the sources by source title, but a simple option to order by research date and ... ta da! You've got a research log."
Reader Virginia Blakelock noted:  "TMG has a Research Log. You can attach a task to a single person, a source, an event, or a repository. Screenshot here: http://screencast.com/t/fLGuEhTVXn"

Updated 25 November 2011:  Added Russ's blog comments.

Thank you to all who commented and provided useful input.

9 comments:

Geoff said...

Randy - Legacy's Research Log is accessed by clicking on the "To Do List" icon for the person. Depending on how their list is filtered, it becomes either a Research Log or a To Do List, or combined.

Louis Kessler said...

Randy,

Here's my thinking out of the box way to implement a research log that is minimal imposition on the user, i.e. it practically happens automatically.

Simply, for each source, include a "date/time item was researched".

The program will normally order the sources by source title, but a simple option to order by research date and ... ta da! You've got a research log.

Louis

Connie Sheets said...

Confirming what Geoff said about Legacy's To Do feature...it is extremely flexible and powerful. I don't know why more people don't use all its features.

It won't look like a traditional research log, but it certainly serves the purpose, and contains all the necessary information (and then some).

Carol said...

RM4 go to:

Reports
Lists
Reports
Blank reports
research log

Granted you have to print it out and fill in in by hand, but it is there.

Cheers

Virginia Blakelock said...

TMG has a Research Log. You can attach a task to a single person, a source, an event, or a repository. Screenshot here:

http://screencast.com/t/fLGuEhTVXn

Virginia

Nettie said...

Randy - RootsMagic has a Reports/All Reports/Research Notes which is for an individual person, which has your Source Citation in the footnotes, Items in the Details Text and Items in the Detail Comments section. Detail Comments are notes created that you think this is the right source, what and why or disagree with. This was set up with Elizabeth Shown Mills help and suggestions.

Sierra said...

The last few days I have been looking into the best way to keep research logs more consistantly. I am planning on this being my New Years resolution. Although FTM does have the research notes capability, it does not directly tie to the tasks list. I wish that FTM would expand the Task List to include other fields to make it more useful as a research log. For now, I am going to keep using an excel file for my research log. This way I can keep everything in one file and have the capability to sort as I want to.

Becky Wiseman said...

Randy, I use the Legacy To Do/Research Log. While here in Salt Lake City I used a spreadsheet to record everything I viewed simply because it was quicker and easier and I was often working "on the fly."

Now I'll go into Legacy for each individual and create To Do items for them and mark them complete. Then I'll create To Do items for what records or info I still need to get.

What I really like about the Legacy To Do feature is when you select the option to print you can create a CSV file that can be imported into a spreadsheet program and manipulated in various ways according to your needs.

It works really well to print a selected group of "to do" items or a log of what you've done for an individual. You cans select specific things to print (or send to a CSV file) using the "What to Include" and the "Filter Options" tabs.

I don't particularly like the way Legacy prints the reports - they use way too much paper. So I almost always use the option to create a CSV file. Of course, you then have to spend some time manipulating the spreadsheet file but you can get pretty much whatever you want - a summary or a full blown report with all the details.

Connie said...

Regarding Becky's concern about the amount of paper the Legacy To Do feature uses to print, this can be minimized by checking "Don't Split a Task Over a Page Break," and judicious use of the Filter and What to Include Options.