03 December 2010

Tracking Your Searches

The citation of genealogical sources has come a long way since I first began my genealogical research in the mid-1980s. That's a good thing.

But the tracking of how we research is one area where many genealogists still fall short. How many of us when we search online databases keep track of how we search? Do we keep track of what we enter in the various search boxes and what options are "checked" or "unchecked?" When names are found easily, I suppose it does not matter all that much. However, when a person or family is not found, it does make a difference.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm thinking about searching again for the passenger list entry for a relative who came to the United States with his family in the mid-1800s. Henry's one brother and daughter immigrated together in the 1850s, but I have not found Henry.

My search for him needs to be systematic. Otherwise, I am going to search the same variations over and over again and may overlook other options. The best way to do this is with a chart of search options based upon the search interface.

I will make a chart with one column for each of the search parameters I choose to use. This allows me to track my results.

We've used charts in many issues of Casefile Clues and several were used in a recent article that focused on a couple where I was able to find their passenger list entry from about the same time period. I do not think Henry and his family will be as easy to locate. And maybe that's why it would make an excellent article.

In a much earlier issue, we used 1870 census enumerations to determine the likely father for a woman who married in October of that year, shortly after the census. Our search procedure explained all the ways the census index was searched, in an attempt to locate every possible match within a several county area. Then the matches (except one) were eliminated for consideration as being the desired person. Reasons for the elimination were included along with the reasons for how the searches were constructed.

I'm a big fan of citing sources (Casefile Clues is heavily cited), but I'm a big fan of citing procedure as well. It is just as important as the citation of sources.