Are you a hit and miss searcher? If you are working against time, chances are you are and not effectively fulfilling even that time allotment. First of all, approach your search with details and information. Before going to any genealogical database, such as FamilySearch FamilySearch International or Ancestry.com Ancestry.com, have names, places, events and a goal as to what you want to find. Now the important part ... do not get sidetracked.
Both of the above mentioned databases are extensive and growing daily. One is free and for the most part the other is not. Neither feature makes for better. Good results will come from the way you search. To focus on FamilySearch, I would suggest that you look over the opening page. It is somewhat simple. You can search records, trees, catalog and books. Then you have the option for a basic search of first names, last name, place, from year to year. Looking at that information you will soon realize that looking for a common name is going to return thousands of entries, even with a location, such as a state or country.
Beside the Search button is Advanced Search. Somewhat helpful, though still limited, this allows you to add an event, relationship, exact match and batch number if needed in your search. Below all of this is a "Browse by Location." You can click on a country or continent. If you click on "USA, Canada, and Mexico," it will bring up 528 collections, to date. Be sure you look through what is available on any of these browse collections.
Under "Browse by Location" you will see "All Record Collections." Click on that to enter your own search term, such as a state or country. You can also do elimination work at this time by selecting the type of collection such as birth, marriage, death or military. In addition you can select a time period. To get started, put in a state where your ancestors lived. For example, if I entered Texas there will pop up 21 collections, to date. Be sure you understand the scope of the collection, such as the dates that are covered. Are they applicable to your research?
At the top of the listing of Historical Records Collections, there is the title, records and last updated. You will also see an asterisk (*) which equals recently added or updated. In the case of Texas collections some have recent additions this month. This means if you have checked before and found nothing, do the search again. You will also see small cameras beside some of the titles. This indicates the images exist for the collection.
Don't get in a hurry and miss some of the most valuable information which is the description of the collection. In the case of the Texas County Tax Rolls, 1846-1910 there are images currently for 237 counties in Texas with the index being in progress; additional records will be added.
If you don't mind searching through thousands of records, go ahead and put John Jones into the search area on the opening page. However, if you are like most of us, time is of essence and you'll want to do some clicking to the right source and then start searching.
Everybody organizes differently. Genealogy is personal and yet should be done properly and with the thought in mind that others may wish to view your accomplishment. If you can't find something, how will your family find it? Organization takes time, but it is worth the effort.
Most of us are using some type of genealogical software in which we record our families, names, dates, places, sources, photographs and notes. You will be using your software to the fullest if you study how to make effective notes and sources. Normally you will be able to create types of notes in which you can detail information, including your research (positive and negative).
Have you noticed that we are a visual society? That is why I like visual notes. I keep my theory notes right on top of a family or person entry so I can see what I'm doing. These include evidence and my conclusions to date. To keep them separate from other notes and information, they are highlighted in red so they "pop" they are bold. Information that I have found that is significant, but needs further research, I highlight in blue and make bold. Use your imagination on the colors, just remember what the colors represent. If you are using an iPod Touch or iPad, those colors will transfer when you update your information. For the genealogist on the go, this is a good thing!
Computers allow us to make file folders and sub folders under main folders. It is no different than the file cabinet and hanging files in an office. Consider what could be filed and categorized in file folders. You can categorize by surname, location, dates and more. Make sure it works for you.
Searching and organization are personal topics. My suggestion is to take an hour out of your schedule to evaluate your search habits and see if you can change them for the better. Look at the organization (or lack of organization) of your genealogy. Scan documents and create file folders so everything is at your finger tips. In the process, you are going to rediscover your ancestry.
Source Information: Tracing Lines, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2011.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.
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