Thursday, December 8, 2011

Where did I get that? - Keeping records of searches.

In the early days of my search for my ancestors, I heard or read, more than once, how important it was to keep track of my sources, to write down where I found information.

As a beginner I thought it didn’t matter too much. After all, it was only for me, it wasn’t as if anyone else would be looking at it, and I would be all done in about a year, so what was the point?

Well, I was wrong. On many counts.

I did make some notes. Notes that I thought would be adequate for me to know where I got information from. Some were in a notebook, which I quickly realized was not going to work, as I needed to file the information in the ring binders that I had for each main line. I changed to loose sheets of A4 paper, noting all the names I found in a particular session on the same sheet. Which I also eventually realized was not working too well, as I then had to copy out that information to have it filed with the correct person. So then I learnt to have only one surname per page, and that worked much better.

I was also a bit casual about how I recorded the information for the source, or the sort of search I did; I just wanted to hurry on to hunting down the next ancestor, or the next bit of information. I really thought I would remember from my sometimes brief notes – I had no idea how much information I would accumulate; it turned out to be much more than my poor brain can handle.

I did not have any idea of how consumed I would be about my new interest, and how far and for how long I would want to pursue it (probably for the rest of my life). Almost four years on, and there are a number of times that I have not been able to work out from my notes just who and what I searched, and have had to go back and re-do some of the work.

So, write it down, and write it down clearly. I realize now that there is no place for short cuts. It is better to take the extra time to be thorough, than to go back to an ancestor or a family months later and not be able to work out what I did, and what I didn’t do. Re-doing work is no short cut.