Sunday, October 3, 2010

Schedule time for analysis after your research trip

When it comes to genealogy research, I'm pretty good at planning research trips. I determine which repository I need to go to, how long it will take me to drive, print out my route maps and figure out where to park.

I'm also good about making a research plan ahead of time. I determine what I'm going to research, print out a plan and make sure I have all the supporting documentation available to me during my trip. That allows me to stay focused so that I can accomplish what I set out to do. Since I typically have very restricted time frames to do repository research that is very helpful and keeps me focused.

The one area I'm not so good at is scheduling analysis time afterward. If I were very organized I would schedule a couple hours immediately after my trip. My family life, however, typically prevents me from spending time on analysis right when I get home.

Ideally the analysis or "round up" time should happen within 24 hours of your trip before you forget. You can wait up to 48 if necessary but try not to put if off any longer than that. You are undermining all the benefits you got from your research if you wait too long.

*If* I were to follow my own advice, my round up time would look like this:

- Create a folder for the project (if not done before your trip)
- Create proper citations on the documents themselves
- Scan documents into the computer (I don't like paper, I prefer everything in the computer where I can find it. I'll just lose the paper.)
- Type up any handwritten notes taken during the trip
- Spend time carefully reading through copies of the original documents (determine if a transcription is needed)
- Update any charts with new information
- Analyze the documents to determine what impact they have on your understanding of your research
- Create a new research plan based on clues that lead you in a new direction

I'm looking forward to the time when I can do this immediately after my research trips. For now I'll have to settle for doing it within a few days of the trip.

How are you at reserving time to round up a research trip? Do you do anything different in your round up/analysis process? Let me know! I'd love to hear your ideas for improving this.


  1. Here is something I learned this summer. If you take a long distance research trip, take the time to write out all the contacts you made on the trip- distant relatives, archivists, librarians, genealogists, cemetery superintendents, curators, etc. and put their names, addresses, email, websites, etc. on a separate sheet of paper to keep in that folder you started for your project. This is invaluable for following up with "thank yous" and for future contact when you don't understand your notes, or you need more information from a certain resource.

  2. If I'm traveling for several days, I try to analyze each day's research that night. I take a scanner on the road so I can at least start scanning as I go. This works out best if you are traveling alone.

    My problem is doing the analysis when I didn't really find anything. I've got 3 days worth of notes from last week that are basically just lists of books and record groups that I checked but found nothing. It's just as important to document that information but I couldn't get interested in it on the road and I'm still having trouble generating any interest in it now that I'm home.

  3. I agree with Linda that the analysis should be done as close to the event as possible. Case in point: our trip though Kansas and Missouri this summer.

    If it weren't for my genealogist husband, I'd still be confusing the courthouse at Smith County, Kansas with the courthouse at Clinton County, Missouri.

    After 8-14 days on the road, things tended to run together. I'd also recommend a log book, detailing which road you took, where you ate, stayed, etc.