Follow Friday – Follow-up on the Research Plan webinar, by Marian Pierre-Louis

This week’s Legacy Family Tree Webinar was “Plan Your Way to Research Success” by Marian Pierre Louis.   As usual, the topic was terrific, the host Geoff Rasmussen was great, the price was right (free!) — and the hour and a half with Marian flew by as she gave tips, examples, motivation and more on using research plans to make our genealogical searches more effective and more efficient.  Marian presented a wonderful webinar and I highly recommend it.

On Thursday Marian wrote about it in her blog Marian’s Roots and Rambles: Follow-up on the Research Plan webinar.  She includes a link to the archived webinar, which will be free for about ten days.  There are also links to purchase the CD or a bundle, and a coupon code for a discount good through Monday, July 23.

Here are some of the important points that I took away from the webinar:

  • Search only one person or one family unit (not extended)
  • Keep the focus narrow
  • Keep the focus more narrow the less you know (e.g., for a brick wall ancestor)
  • Writing your research plan necessitates writing what you do know
  • This will lead to what you don’t know
  • Go to FamilySearch wiki or something similar to find what records exist during the applicable time period and location
  • Create a plan to find the information, using research plan forms

Marian’s webinar gives examples of the forms she creates for some of her own research plans.  She uses Microsoft Word for these forms.  I would probably use a spreadsheet.  Marian stressed the importance of using whatever helps you — you need to make it work for the way you organize and think.  Don’t get hung up on the way other people make their research plans. The important thing is to take control of the research process and use forms to help identify what you know & what you don’t know to lead to what you WANT to know.

This webinar is what I needed to think through the use of a research plan.  It will help me focus on creating smaller research projects.  Another important thing that it reinforced is my need to write what I have found, including conclusions, reasons, next steps, stumbling blocks, and why I am perplexed about something.  Then when I come back to that family and that individual, it will be easy for me to remember what I learned and what else I need to search for.

I hope that you will check out Marian’s blog and her webinar.  She has lots of practical advice that you can use in your research.  Here is an example of what you will find.

Thank you, Marian, for a great webinar!

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You may also want to take a look at the list of Legacy’s upcoming webinars.  There are some great ones coming up in the next few weeks that I don’t want to miss.

What Do You Mean It Isn’t Free – My Response

Last week Thomas MacEntee wrote a week-long series Genea-Opportunities – 2012 Update where he discussed not only opportunities to earn a living in the genealogy field and their issues but also the perception that everything should be free when it comes to genealogy  [see What Do You Mean It Isn’t Free?].  Because of my present circumstances, my journey of Genealogy in the Recession, this made me a little uncomfortable.  It’s not that I think that everything in genealogy should be free, it’s that right now I need to find the things that are.  I think that this situation presents itself to one degree or another to many researchers sometime during their life.

I have presented many links to websites where the information is/was free.  Sometimes a subscription site is offering access to certain record collections for a limited time.  This is a loss leader for the company, i.e., they are hoping to attract new customers who discover the wonderful information available in those collections, and by extension in the rest of the collections that company offers, and sign up for a subscription.

Many times Webinars are presented as a form of marketing for their presenters and sponsors.  Legacy is a prime example of this.  They have weekly webinars on a wide variety of subjects that offer them an opportunity to promote their Legacy software and the presenter an opportunity to showcase his/her knowledge and professional offerings.  A CD and handout are then available for purchase.   The Illinois State Genealogical Society offers free webinars, charging only for the handouts, because it has found that the cost is covered by new memberships generated.

Sometimes the information is made available by the government and in this case it is funded by the taxpayers.  In the case of federal websites, this is all of us.  In the case of state websites, it is courtesy of that state’s taxpayers (and perhaps all of us, I suppose, if there is a federal grant of some kind involved).

Many times the information is free because of the dedicated efforts of volunteers.  This is the case on findagrave, The US GenWeb Project, RootsWeb, Genealogy Trails, and many others.  I wrote about findagrave on Tuesday’s Tip – Websites for Death Information–Free, of course; I will write about the other sites on Thrifty Thursday.

The tremendous amount of information on FamilySearch, in the Family History Library and in local family history centers is available because of the LDS Church and also because of many volunteers around the world who index, add to the wiki and more.

In the past, I have had subscriptions to Ancestry, fold3, NEHGS and memberships in local genealogy societies.  I certainly hope to again.  At present, I am very grateful for the wide availability of resources available to me at no cost and very appreciative of all the work that goes into making these resources available.

I am taking the opportunity to give back in any way that I can.  I have done quite a bit of indexing for FamilySearch, including the 1940 Census [and the 5 million name day that turned into 10 million!].  I have taken photos and posted memorials on findagrave.  I have responded to many queries on my Ancestry tree, offering information and guidance.  I have taught a class and I have researched and built trees for several people — all free.

And, I hope in some small way that this blog provides some useful information to the genealogy community as well.  Maybe it will even provide inspiration to someone else to give back a little.  I think that there will always be free resources available because genealogists tend to be very helpful people, people who like to volunteer and to help others become passionate about family history.  This doesn’t mean that we always expect a free lunch – just that we are grateful for it when it comes.

Tuesday’s Tip – Stop and Summarize

With the free access of Revolutionary War Records available recently on Ancestry.com as well as currently available on fold3.com,* I have been accumulating quite a bit of information and images.  It is a challenge in racing through to find records while the databases are available to strike a balance in using your time efficiently.  How much of the information do you need to incorporate into your own tree right now?  How much can wait for later?

With my journey in Genealogy without a Budget, I am still working to find that “perfect” balance.  I try to put the pieces together, at least in my mind, to figure out what additional information might be available from these free databases.  A Research Log would probably be helpful with this, but I have not been good about using them.  I am looking forward to the free Legacy webinar “Plan Your Way to Research Success” by Marian Pierre-Louis on Wednesday, July 18.

However you go about deciding what to look for in the free databases, at the end of each day, or each session, you need to summarize what you have done, what you have found, what you are still looking for.  When the free period has ended, summarize again.  This time, make sure that you have a to-do list of what you need to do with all the information you found.  For example, you may need transcribe the images, add dates and places to your tree, determine how this new information fits with what you already know, determine what information you still need.

At the very least, before you take a break to recover from your sprint through the free databases, make sure you know what you have found.  List the databases that you searched, list the records you found in each one, make sure you have the proper sourcing.  In Windows Explorer (Windows 7), look in your Recently Changed folder and make a list of images that you have saved and any documents that you may have created from the information.  Evernote is a good place to keep your lists.

It is tempting to say, wow, that was a lot of work, I need a break — and walk away from all of your new-found goodies.  But you’ll be glad that you took a little time to summarize your work.  Then when you come back to it, you will be ready to tackle your to-do list, find out what amazing breakthroughs you made and write a narrative about your ancestor.  Then those free databases will truly have been worth the wait!

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*Access to fold3.com’s Revolutionary War Collection is free through July 15.