|Immigrant trunk of Ahltie[sic] F. Goldenstein, in possession|
of Michael John Neill
And it got me to thinking:
"When is it time to quit?"
It's a good question, particularly when the record or document for which we are searching may not answer any "burning questions" or has little chance of shedding much new light on the person of interest. If we are looking for something more out of personal curiosity than of necessity, how much search is required? In the case of Altje, her life is well-documented in Germany and in the United States. It would be "nice" to have the manifest (after all, it may list neighbors or close associates), but how much time should be spent before I decide it simply is "time to quit?"
The Board for Certification of Genealogists' Genealogy Standards: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition may have a section on "when to quit," but I certainly didn't see it. While the Standards has a glossary, "when to quit" isn't one of the defined terms and there was not an index I could consult.
There is a paragraph in the Standards on "Terminating the plan" (page 15), but it really did not address the issue of when to quit with much detail. Running out of money is pretty self-evident and running out of time can easily be the result of deadlines imposed by editors, publishers and others outside the genealogist's control. Those want their personal research to be done in the spirit of the Standards have different limitations than researchers working for hire. But they do have limitations (sleep for one) and need to know when they've effectively done all they could.
Part of the answer is a research log--a detailed one. The research log will not tell you when to quit, but it will at least let you have an inventory of what you searched, how it was searched, when it was searched, and what the results of that search were.
As multiple databases and websites offer acces to the same information (with perhaps different indexes) and occasionally modify those indexes, the name of the website, specific database, and date of search must be a part of your research log.
The way in which you searched (first name and last name variations, wildcards used, whether Soundex was used) is also a part of that research log.
The results are as well.
For Altje, it may be time to quit when, I have:
- accessed arrivals into all US ports that accepted passenger ships during the time period she arrived.
- if a manual search of those manifests is not possible (or practical)--that's a lot of pages to read one page at a time, my searches of online indexes to those manifests should include:
- all name variants used
- time periods used
- ports searched
- websites used--with database titles