Tasks and Logs

Research Logs – I think the genealogy camp can be divided into those who love them and those that don’t. Most ‘lovers’ of research logs will gladly show off their spreadsheet or other tool to record their research progress.

My first research log was a notebook where I wrote down some information about the source as I used it. During a trip to the Family Search Library in Salt Lake, I started using their paper forms as a research log. Each form was for a different surname and often for a different repository or even date of research. Even though I still have my original notebook, I do not have the individual forms. As I entered the source citations in my software, those forms were discarded.

During those early days of my research I at least tried to keep a research log. As I transitioned from paper family group sheets to software, I tried to use the capabilities of the software to log my research. In the process, the log switched to more of a ‘to do’ list. Below is a screenshot of such a ‘log’ in my The Master Genealogist file.

As I transitioned from The Master Genealogist to RootsMagic, I again attempted to use RootsMagic’s built-in To-Do list.

As I’ve been working with the RootsMagic 8 preview, I’m again wanting to see how successful I will be using the Tasks feature of RootsMagic 8. To learn how this feature works I’ve watched (and re-watched) the RootsMagic 8 Preview video about Tasks.

So, I decided to create the same Kirkpatrick task in RootsMagic 8. So, from the Task screen, I added a task.

Then, I migrated to Alfred Kirkpatrick’s ‘Edit Person’ screen, where I need to add the task.

Once I click on the ‘Add Task’ link, I can select the task from the master list of tasks.

Since RootsMagic 8 will allow me to attach the same task to both a person and a place, I migrated to Platte County, Missouri in my Place list to add the task to that place.

After also adding the task to Elizabeth Bland Burke, the other party in the sought after land transactions, I can go to the task and verify how often it has been used.

In figuring all of this out, I discovered some things about my usage of tasks:

  • I had tasks that I had completed still showing as needing completion in my RootsMagic 7 file.
  • I have tasks in a RootsMagic 8 file created from a RootsMagic 7 file named TMG that are not in my primary RM 7 file. I’m guessing that this tmg.rmgc file was created by importing my Master Genealogist data into RM 7 while my primary file was not created by a direct import. Thus, I will have to go thru all of these tasks to see what has been done vs what still needs to be done
  • I fail at using this feature of the software! For proof, just look at the first image. This task was created in 2001 in Master Genealogist. I quit using Master Genealogist in 2016. Thus, this task set unfinished for FIFTEEN years.

I have considered using this software feature to create a list of resources to use on a research trip. However, I’ve had more success using a simple spreadsheet.

As I’ve contemplated writing this blog post over the past couple of weeks, I realized that my genealogy goals are a form of a genealogy to-do list. These goals could easily become tasks in RootsMagic 8. However, I’m finding I keep referring back to my bullet journal and my list of 2021 goals. These might be in a simple hand-written list, but they are something I’m looking at on a regular basis versus being buried in a list of tasks I rarely look at.

I guess that puts me in the camp of researchers that don’t use traditional research logs. For an alternative to formal research logs, check out the video, Why You Don’t Need Research Logs in Genealogy.

So which camp are you in?

Research Notes

Do you keep a research log? I have to admit that I would likely get a ‘failing grade’ for this part of the genealogy standard. I’ve tried using a paper log and a spreadsheet log, but don’t seem to be able to keep it up. Thus, I don’t have a ‘master index’ to locate my research notes.
In May, Pat Richley-Erickson, posted a question to the Facebook group, The Organized Genealogist, asking group members how they organize their research notes. This was followed up by a Wacky Wednesday presentation, Organizing Active Research Notes.

I’m just now starting to watch this presentation, but have already picked up on a hint that I would like to implement in my own research: incorporate the link to the actual file in my notes. (Thanks Cousin Russ for sharing this hint from Drew Smith.)
Even though I seem to fail at keeping a formal research log, I have found a tool that helps me keep track of my active research. That tool is Scrivener. Scrivener is actually a tool designed for writers to organize their research. There are a variety of resources that helped me learn to use Scrivener for genealogy.

I’m not using Scrivener to write a family history. However, I am using it to collect and organize my research notes. Having discovered Scrivener, I have started creating a Scrivener project for each surname I am actively researching. Within a project, I create a folder on the Research corkboard for the county. 
My current research project is my CRAWFORD research. Since much of this research involves counties with shifting county boundaries, I’m using the date the county was formed as part of the folder name. 

Even though I have to manually sort the folder, having the year the county formed helps me realize that I likely have to look in multiple counties. This date is also a clue to approximate start dates for records in that county.
Then within that county folder, I can

  • create a file to take notes
  • import images of documents
  • transcribe the images of documents

When I take notes, I try to put all of the information needed for a citation at the top of the page. Then I add notes from the source.

When I import an image, I can switch to a split screen with the image on the top and a ‘transcription’ file on the bottom.

By transcribing these records, I can copy/paste the transcription into notes or the citation detail in my RootsMagic. I also am copying this information into blog posts so that I can more easily share them with other researchers.
These files can also be exported in a variety of formats.

As I’m researching several different Crawford families in early Kentucky and beyond, I’ve found Scrivener to be extremely helpful. All of my notes are in this project. Thus, this tool has become my ‘Research Log’.