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.


  1. Anne, this is so true. Like you, I learned the hard way. Sadly, I may never figure out the source of some data in my first genealogy notebooks (from the 1970s!)

  2. Anne, Just found your blog via your Twitter profile. I've added it to my RSS and look forward to reading your posts.