Genealogical research process

The basic process for genealogical research is to

  1. Select a research project
  2. Search for sources of documentary evidence
  3. Search those sources of evidence at the repository
  4. Analyze the evidence found and transcribe, extract, and/or store images found
  5. Create a factual statement and draw conclusions from the evidence
  6. Present facts and conclusions through a report or database record
  7. Select a new research project using results from the current project and start again from step 2.

Selecting a research project involves looking for inconsistent data, weak sources, and other oddities in the available data. A common example is having several dates for birth for one person. Which date is correct?

Where does one find resources to find out which birth date is correct? That’s step two.

Step three is visiting or contacting the repositories where you are likely to find the correct birth date information.

Step four involves looking at the real birth records or reproductions of those records and determining whether they are directly related to the event and were created to document that event. Even if a record does not directly relate to the birth, the information is still valuable. Make a citation for the source checked, using record number, film information, and call numbers, as proper.

Creating factual statement and drawing conclusions from the found evidence comes next. Sometimes the evidence is enough to prove the correct birth date, so the project is a success. If the evidence still does not satisfy the research requirements, more work is necessary.

In any case, write a short report summarizing your results so you know that you’ve already checked a specific repository and set of sources. In the report, describe and comment on the records found and what they contain. This step helps refine ideas for more searches and can generate ideas of places to look elsewhere, which is step seven.