Thursday, September 17, 2015

Research Logs for..

Research Logs

for the Genealogist Who Doesn't Know Where to Go Next 

(click here for the list of topics currently in this series)

When I lecture about keeping a spreadsheet research log, I always tell the audience there is one thing they can definitely do WRONG. That is not keeping and using a research log. There are many ways to do it right and there's a lot of personal preference related to a research log. That is why it is included in this series. If you don't know what a research log (or research calendar) is, you need to learn. You need to understand why you should keep and use one before you can find one that works for you.

I love my research log in Excel. I never did a good job keeping it or using it before I put it in Excel. I also love Evernote. So I tried keeping it there; it made perfect sense. It just didn't work for me. I don't love Microsoft so I tried keeping it in a different spreadsheet program (Open Office or Google Sheets). That didn't work for me either. I've given up; I'm keeping it in Excel. It works for me.

That does not mean it is necessarily the answer for you!

Here is a list of things you HAVE to consider.
  1. Will you actually KEEP the log (i.e. record your research/sources as you research)
  2. Will you USE the log (i.e. refer to it in future)
  3. Will you be able find the log when you need it
  4. Will you be able to read the entries and fit/find everything that should be in the log
As I mentioned, Evernote sounded perfect for me. It would always be with me, it was legible and searchable but it just didn't quite meet items 1 & 2. I didn't like the way it looked and I didn't like the way I had to find entries. It didn't matter how perfect it seemed because I wouldn't keep and use a log in Evernote. Why am I rambling on about this? Because one link to research log information is probably not going to be enough if this is your introduction to the concept of a research log. You need to keep learning about them until it clicks. Visit your local library and get some general "how-to" guides on genealogy and read about research logs.

I could write on and on about how to keep a log and what goes into a log but instead I'll provide some links. These are just a sampling but are a good starting point.
"Research Logs" on FamilySearch Wiki,
Printable research log from FamilySearch,
Electronic (Word) research log from FamilySearch,
"Getting Organized" from American Ancestors, includes information on research logs,
FamilyTree Magazine "Research Trackers and Organizers" - note that several of these are essentially "research logs" under different names. 
Also try searching "Genealogy Research Logs" or "Genealogy Research Calendars," the Google image results may be helpful to see a variety of logs. You can also add the name of a program if you want to see if there is information specific to a program you are interested in. For example, I know there are many blog posts about keeping a log in Evernote.