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Research Logs

Do you have one task that ‘genealogy experts’ recommend that you just don’t seem to be able to tackle? For me, that tends to be a research log.

Even though I have a ‘research log’ from my early days of research, I haven’t been consistent with keeping that log — especially with Internet searching. And, I really could use a comprehensive research log now!

I have the opportunity to apply for a ‘brick wall’ consultation at the upcoming Topeka Genealogical Society conference in April. As part of that application, I need to submit a list of sources already checked. With forty years of research and a lot of same name issues, I could really use a complete research log!

For this application, I am going to submit James Crawford (1772-1854) of Preble County, Ohio as my brick wall ancestor. James married Sally Duggins in 1799 in Garrard County, Kentucky before migrating to Ohio by the early 1800s. The research question I would like assistance with is “Who is James Crawford’s father?

Seems simple enough, right. Unfortunately, there are a lot of same name issues with researching this ancestor.

  1. Next door neighbor in Preble County, Ohio was James Crawford (1770-1833) who married Martha Knight in 1793 in Lincoln County, KY. This James Crawford migrated from Preble County, OH to Warren County, IN where he died. Also migrating to Warren County, IN from Preble County, OH at about the same time was Nelson G. Crawford, the son of James and Sally (Smith Duggins) Crawford.
  2. There is a third James Crawford (1758-1836) living in Madison and Garrard counties in Kentucky prior to 1800. This James Crawford was married to Rebecca Anderson and migrated to Jennings County, IN and then to Jefferson County, IN.
  3. Garrard County KY histories refer to a Rev. James Crawford. There was a Rev. James Crawford (1752/3 – 1803) at Walnut Hill Presbyterian Church in Fayette County, KY. Rev. James Crawford was married to Rebecca McPheeters.
  4. DAR applications by descendants of James Crawford and Rebecca Anderson appear to have records mixed up with a James Crawford (1757-1836) who resided in Fleming County, KY. This James Crawford was married to Sarah Vansant.

So, I not only need to identify sources I’ve checked for James and Sally (Duggins) Crawford, but also sources I’ve checked for all of these other James Crawfords.

To start re-creating such a research log, I used RootsMagic to print an individual summary report, complete with bibliography for each of these James Crawfords. I then copied the bibliography entries into Notepad where I could remove the leading punctuation and clean up any other errors.

bibliography

From Notepad, I copied the entries into Excel. Since there were blank lines between each bibliography entry, those blank lines copied over to Excel. To eliminate the blank lines, I sorted by the bibliography column. This pushed all of the blank lines to the bottom of the list.

excelbibentries

Unfortunately, that only gets sources that I’ve cited in RootsMagic. I had drawers full of research that would need to be added to this list of sources used. Fortunately, I have scanned most of that research. Unfortunately, I named the scanned files with the Dollarhide code I used to file the paperwork.

scannedimages

Since the code was part of my citations in Master Genealogist, I can find the paperwork when working from a source in my program. However, these file names don’t tell me where I got the information in each of those files. When I open the file, it is usually a handwritten document (remember my research is up to 40 years old).

oldnotes

Unfortunately, I don’t have a full citation on these old notes. However, I usually have a fairly accurate title. When I started working my way thru my Ohio notes, I was just Googling the title. Part way thru, I realized that I could probably find the information faster using WorldCat.

worldcat

In some cases, I didn’t have enough of the title to find it via WorldCat. In those situations, I used the FamilySearch catalog and searched for the place associated with the resource. Then I drilled down to the type of information (history, tax, deeds, probate, etc.).

familysearchbibSo far, I’ve been able to find the bibliographic information thru either WorldCat or FamilySearch. This bibliography information was added to my Excel spreadsheet along with the filing code.

excelbibohio

In the process, I also took the opportunity to change the file name so that it included an abbreviated version of the title of the resource.

filenameschanged

In some cases, these files were actual copies of records. In those cases, I changed the file name to indicate the type and source of the record.

filenamerecords

Yesterday, I managed to make it thru the process of identifying and renaming my Ohio files for Crawford. However, I still need to do my Kentucky files and my Virginia files. Since I have done some FAN club research, I should also add the files for Duggins and Sellers along with the bibliographies for the females appearing on the early Kentucky tax lists: Rebecca Crawford and Mary Crawford.

Lesson learned:

Use better file names

Keep a research log!

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Research Logs

  1. I use to religiously keep a research log, too, but as the computer age dawned, I got out of the paper habit. I decided this year is the year I am redoing my file organization on my computer AND spiffing up the source citations in my genealogy software. I agree, we all need to get back in the habit of keeping a research log, which now can be done in the software programs.

  2. I’m trying to keep one now — but I still catch myself looking at a source and not recording ANYWHERE that I looked at it.

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