How To Enhance Your Genealogy Research

In life (and in your genealogy research), not everything goes according to plan. Sometimes, you need a Plan B. And then other times you need a Plan C, D, and, well, you get the picture. This past week was one of those for my husband and me out on the road.

Plan B genealogy research

Trailers are typically 13’6″ tall. For some tunnels, that’s the maximum height you can be in order to go through. The trailer we had on Friday was just a little too tall and we got turned away at two different tunnels. Due to traffic, we turned around before trying a third. It’s all in the name of safety, which I get. But, nonetheless, it was a really frustrating day! In the end, we gave up on that particular route and backtracked to one that didn’t include any tunnels.

Similarly, you can apply that same principle to your research. Having a Plan B in genealogy is important to anticipate challenges or roadblocks that may come up during your research. Here are some suggestions to develop a backup plan:

  • Diversify your sources: Relying on a single source or type of record can be risky. Expand your search to include various types of documents, such as census records, birth/marriage/death certificates, church records, land records, military records, and immigration records. This will increase the likelihood of finding alternative sources of information if one source is unavailable or incomplete. The Family Search Catalog is a good place to start.
  • Explore different repositories: If you primarily search online databases, consider visiting local archives, libraries, or historical societies that may hold unique or lesser-known records. These physical repositories can provide access to original documents, unpublished manuscripts, local newspapers, and other resources not available online.
  • Work with other researchers: Talk with other genealogists, family members, or members of genealogical societies who share an interest in your research. Collaborating can lead to the discovery of new resources, research techniques, or connections that you may not have considered.
  • Document and organize your research: Maintain well-organized research notes, citations, and copies of documents. This will enable you to retrace your steps and reassess your research if needed. By having a clear record of your findings, you can easily switch gears or revisit previously examined sources if you encounter difficulties.
  • Develop research strategies: When faced with a challenge, consider alternative research strategies. If you are unable to find a specific birth record, for example, explore substitute records like census data, marriage records, or church baptismal records that may provide similar information.
  • Ask for help: If you reach a roadblock, consult a professional genealogist who can offer guidance, suggest additional resources, or provide insights based on their experience. Sometimes, fresh eyes and expertise can help overcome difficult research problems.

Genealogy tip: Remember that genealogical research can be complex and time-consuming, and it may not all go as planned. Having a flexible mindset and being prepared to adapt your research approach will help you navigate obstacles and maintain progress toward your genealogical goals.

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