Sorting Saturday ~ Genealogy Detective

Posted: July 20, 2012 in Ancestry, family tree, Genealogy, research
Tags: , , , , ,


detective (Photo credit: olarte.ollie)

If you like mysteries, then you are probably a good genealogy detective. Just like police detectives or investigators, genealogists and family historians alike must find the clues in their research to be able to move forward with what they have found. When sorting through my different documents and research findings, I admit I am guilty of just jumping the gun and “Googling” to my hearts content. In truth, there is nothing wrong with using search engines to find something, ANYTHING on your ancestors. But it probably won’t yield the results you are seeking. You may have reworded your keyword search several times over, but the search engines still give you the same web pages, with a little variation thrown into the mix. In cases like this, maybe it’s time for a different direction as far as your research is concerned. What do you do next?

Have you thought about creating a research plan? I have many different times, but have yet to put this into action. After listening to a genealogy webinar hosted by Legacy Family Tree, I have decided to change my research tactics! I have completed research on this topic but just now, think it’s time to share what I have learned. You may ask, “What is a research plan anyway? Why should I use one?” A research plan is the backbone of a genealogists research. It will help you find out what you do and do not know about your ancestors and may also help you break through that brick wall you have found yourself up against. You need a plan of action; this is the purpose of the research plan!

Well, for starters, creating a plan such as this can be critical to your research. Would you go into a library unprepared? Looking around for a book that just may look interesting enough to check out, is just a waste of your time. Go in there prepared and knowledgeable as to what you are seeking. How do you gather your information? Personally, I start with what I know. Right now I am in the process of creating my own research plan form using Excel software. The forms I have seen on the different web pages, I don’t really care for. The field boxes are too small to write the data inside without making a mistake reading it in the future. I want to be able to recall my sources, dates, the type of research that was completed and so on. So I am creating my own! Too much work? Not at all. It will keep me organized and I can always refer back to the plan.

There are many different sites where you can download free forms such as a family group sheet, a research log, pedigree charts, or a research plan; whatever form you think may help you in your overall research, forms are a great resource tool to get acclimated to using on a regular basis. I like personally. This site has direct URL’s that take you to the right form based on your own needs without having to waste time searching for the right one.

If you are like me, you do a lot of online research. I live over 4000 miles away from where my ancestors were known to have settled, so I depend mainly on the Internet for my findings. I have gone to my nearby library but have only walked out with genealogy books and a book that will help me learn the Japanese language. There wasn’t very many research books related to my family search, mainly Hawaiian heritage and the like. They did have huge filing cabinets of old newspapers which I thought was interesting, but doesn’t help me find my Cornett family roots. So I am pretty thankful to have internet access!

Keep in mind that if you are searching through internet search engines, that Google, Bing, Mocavo and others, will yield a variety of differing results. Not all search engines will be the same or give you the same results. Experiment with different search engines and compare the results! Just an idea 🙂

There is quite a bit of data accessible online and it can be overwhelming to a beginning genealogist. One of the sites I go to regularly is They are always updating the site with new records and documents, so I go there to see what may be new to my own searches on my ancestry. Thank you to the volunteers for adding and helping make these documents available for viewing! Since using a research plan involves thoughtful planning, I hope my plan works for me as well as I think it will.

If you decide to create your own research plan, ask yourself a few questions.

1. What do I already know about my ancestor? Write it down.

2. Can I narrow down the search in any way? Maybe it’s a death date or burial location.

3. Did a family member move away during a specific time frame?

4. Did my ancestor die in one place but happen to be buried in another location or state altogether?


Ancestry’s Wiki or Red Book

Family History Library Catalog

Local history books of the area you are researching

Manuscript Searches

Literature Research

Heritage Quest Online

Search old newspapers

Family Search Wiki

I can’t wait to get started on this new method style of researching my ancestry. Good luck!


  1. […] Sorting Saturday ~ Genealogy Detective ( […]

  2. Great recommendations. It’s always better to have a plan. 🙂

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