Monday, July 30, 2018

Writing Reports to Yourself

How many of us regular write research reports to ourselves? Elizabeth Shown Mills' reports, normally available on her web site which is offline at the moment, are legendary! Other genealogists such as Elissa Scalise Powell champion "writing as you go."

Writing the research as I go made me a better genealogist. I immediately spot the facts that need better evidence or which are missing. I can include these "problems" in my "Suggestions for further research" section until I can seek the needed document or address the problem some other way. If I send for a document, I can make a note of that and follow up in the future, if needed.

It is easy to create your own research report template in a word processing program. You'll find examples of research report formats at the Board for Certification of Genealogists web site. Templates are also available for purchase from Brent Chadwick that include macros for commonly used citations.

Last night I looked at an Ancestry DNA autosomal match who had a tree with names for himself and his father but no dates and no other persons. As I looked at the "shared matches," it was apparent he was matching on my paternal father's line. As I began doing "quick and dirty" work on his tree to see if I could identify the match, I found his ancestors living next to persons with the surname I suspected was the match. Both my match's surname's lines and the surname of interest seemed to follow the same migration trail. I also noted another name in close proximity which could explain something I've seen in my DNA matches--where the match appears to be on my maternal grandmother's line, but that it matches my Dad also, even though GEDmatch says my parents are not related. The matches are probably cousins to Dad but Dad is matching them on his paternal father's line rather than on the name from my maternal grandmother's line.

I immediately knew I needed to document all that quick and dirty research and work my way back to the point where we may connect. There are some hints which may lead me to connect a dot or two to reach the ancestor we are fairly certain is ours from Y-DNA matching. Today I began writing that report. I didn't have a lot of time to do so because I had a couple of appointments that took up part of my day. However, the report is now twelve pages long and documents a couple of generations pretty well. I made one note for further research, but I was able to document most births, marriages, divorces, and deaths. I included censuses for the older generations. Much of the research I performed today was on living individuals and as such cannot be shared. I may work a little more this evening, but I'm happy with what I achieved for the day.

I'm conscious of my goals and research questions as I'm writing it. The report format helps me stay focused on my goal instead of following tangents. As I write each individual's paragraph(s), I ask myself what documents are missing or which things need better evidence.

The missing document I sought today was a birth certificate. I have plenty of other evidence of the birth date with no conflicting evidence, but the birth certificate would be a better source.

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