The importance of verifying your discoveries: spotlight on Caroline
Tips from family history enthusiasts just like you
Do you have a once and done approach to your genealogy research?
It’s something I’ve been guilty of, for sure. When I first started looking for my ancestors that I did just that. I took every discovery as gospel and kept going.
And I never made a single note about where I found the information. Not whether it was a record on microfilm or the reliable memory of Great Aunt Ivy. I was 18 and had a great memory, why would I need to write it down?
So years later, when asked where I found a particular fact, I didn’t have an answer. My great memory let me down like my ancestors had when they gave the wrong details for a record.
These are all reasons why this ‘Spotlight On’ tip resonates with me. I learned the hard way that because it’s a government record doesn’t mean it’s right. The details recorded are only as reliable as the person providing them. And as we all human, no fact is infallible.
Spotlight on Caroline
Meet Caroline from Ireland. Her genealogy journey started while looking for her paternal grandparents and their stories. That was 15 years ago, and she is still looking for ancestors – just not the same ones!
Caroline’s currently reviewing the research she’s done to-date. Time to check what she’s found out, document the facts as well as where she found each of them. A smart plan to find out where the gaps are so she knows that she needs to look for next.
Spotlight on Caroline … in her words
It is very important you record what you have researched so you are not wasting time redoing research you have already done and to support your facts with a record of the source of your information. If at some point you decide to share your research and someone discovers a discrepancy in your work they will then disregard all the research you have done. Therefore in order to be professional in your work ensure you can back up your facts with at least 3 sources as it is also important to note that sources can also contain discrepancies so if you have 3 sources to back it up you can be confident that your fact is correct.Caroline M. (Ireland)
Keeping track of your steps is a great idea, and not only because it helps you prove your discoveries to others. I’ve wasted so much time looking for answers I already had. All because I didn’t stop to document what I’d already discovered. There is nothing worse than having your ‘A-ha’ moment turn into a ‘DOH!’
Track your steps
Make your life (and research) easier by tracking your journey as you go. Start a research log to capture the question your asking, where you are looking and what you did or didn’t find. It’s easy and doesn’t need any special tools. Start with a spreadsheet (like Excel or Google Sheets), or get fancy and create a Trello Board instead.
Make updates as you make discoveries, or when you don’t find anything at all. It’s as important to note where your ancestor is, as where they are not.
Trying using your research log with an ancestor timeline to check for gaps in the facts so you know where to look next.
Make your research searchable
Does Caroline’s tip inspire you to start tracking your research? Check out the article below to learn more about how I track my steps with searchable screenshots.
Make More Time for Genealogy Research with Your Own Searchable Lists of Frequently Used Resources.
Or snag a copy of the Essential Ancestor Discovery Worksheet to check off what you have and what you still want to find out.
Share your tip in Spotlight On
Do you have a story or tip (or two!) from your genealogy journey to share with your fellow family history enthusiasts? Take the ‘Spotlight On…’ survey and let me know.
Want to read more about tracking your research? Be sure to check out:
Feature photo by Brad Neathery on Reshot