Research Thoughts and Ideas

by Ruby Coleman

Genealogy friends, students and acquaintances often ask sincere questions regarding their research concerns and needs. Some of these are thought provoking, all are sincere and in some respects pertain to all researchers regardless of their level of knowledge and expertise.

Q - My family gave me genealogical software. I have kept my family group sheets and pedigree charts in a large notebook through the years. This is a huge task to now enter the information into the computer. What is the best method for doing this? Should I enter all the names, dates, locations and then go back to add notes and documentation?

A - Just as you researched, collected and placed the information on appropriate family group sheets and pedigree charts, you should enter the information into the computer. As you enter information, make certain you are documenting at the same time. Enter research notes and anything appropriate to the family group. Once this is done you can proceed to the next linking family unit. While it takes time to enter information into the computer, I have found that it refreshes my memory regarding past research and ancestors that I may have forgotten. By typing the information into the genealogical software, you may notice errors or incomplete information. Correct them while you are working on the family unit. It takes time, but is well worth the endeavor. A word of caution ... once you have entered the data be sure to save it and then back up your genealogy files.

Q - I can spend hours looking for information on Internet. It is frustrating when I spend that time and don't find anything. What am I doing wrong?

A - You are probably doing nothing wrong. Remember the days when you went to the library and looked through shelves of books only to find little or no information? Maybe you have gone to a courthouse only to find your ancestor left no will. Just because Internet allows us access to millions of records (some accurate and some not), does not mean we will find anything. The clue to using Internet for research purposes is to use your time wisely. Here are some suggestions:

- Have an idea of what you want to find on Internet.

- Search the big databases, such as those on the LDS FamilySearch site, http://www.familysearch.org or RootsWeb.com World Connect Project at http://worldconnect.genealogy.rootsweb.com/.

- Make a list of the places on Internet you have searched and return later checking for updates.

- Search locations and not just names. Look at what is available on Internet at location sites, such as those in the USGenWeb Project, http://www.usgenweb.org.

- Consider name spellings. Do not isolate your ancestor to one spelling of his or her surname.

- Do not completely rely on the search engines provided on web sites. They may not be up to date. Use some of the big search engines on Internet.

- Check query sites, message boards, forums and mailing lists. Join those that pertain to your surname or in areas you research. Don't lurk, send messages. This allows somebody to see your names, your research problem and respond.

- Use digital images that are available on Internet. If you are using a transcription, you should check the original record. Make certain it is correct.

- Make a list of what you want to find and check off what you have found (both negative and positive) on Internet. If it's not there, look elsewhere, such as in courthouses or libraries. Use microfilm or microfiche to view other records.

Q - I have discovered that some of my research and family information I have shared through the years is now on Internet. In some cases the information is wrong, I am not given credit for information and there is information about living people. What can be done about this?

A - Once you share information it seems to be open territory for anybody to use as they wish, including placing it on Internet. People are then at liberty to download it, copy it and use it. Many people do not realize the information may be incorrect or spend no energy or time to ascertain the validity of it. Some of the web sites allow responses by leaving post it notes, or you can contact the submitter. They may or may not change the information or give you credit for it. Most good genealogical programs filter sensitive information or information on living individuals. Some people do not know how to use that feature or take time to use it. You can also suggest to the submitter that information on living persons or sensitive information be deleted.

With the use of genealogical software and Internet, new questions and problems arise. We still have research problems and basic methods of research, with a new twist. Telecommunications allow us to share information and communicate on a faster, global basis. Even so we all need to practice sound research habits.

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