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Tips on Researcher's Block

Overcoming researcher's block may be as simple as looking at your research with a new perspective.


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Resource: GenWeekly
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You have heard of writer's block, and most likely you have experienced a similar phenomenon called researcher's block. To be sure, there are differences between the two conditions. A writer's imagination can dry, making it impossible for the writer to advance his or her story. A researcher can discover his or her leads and sources have dried up; thus, being unable to advance the research.

Fortunately, there are some tips which may assist the genealogist to get back on the road. For the writer, other measures are required to squeeze out any more storyline from a taxed mind.

The first useful exercise for researchers is to look at your data with a new perspective. It may include recreating a new file or consolidating all the data on a particular ancestor on one sheet or file. Make sure all the bits and pieces of data about Uncle Joe are collected and are in front of you. Rewriting the data in a narrative form, as an outline, in scrapbook format or as a family tree chart can help paint a picture of an ancestor's life, which may lead to a new step taken toward research.

Another method is to list ever type of source and resource that can be used in securing data about any particular individual. A list of sources like social security records, birth certificate, death certificate, land records, obituaries, cemeteries, internet, directories etc., can help a researcher in figuring out what information can still be gleamed from unrecovered records.

Some researchers find it useful to put their research away for six to twelve months and lay the file aside for awhile. It is amazing what one can not see about a particular situation. Taking a break often allows the researcher to look at the situations with a fresh perspective. In addition, a researcher can also swap ancestors with another researcher. Let your friend look for data about your Uncle Joe while you look up information on his Aunt Jane. Ask your friend to give you a list of resources which he or she uses online. Perhaps your friend knows of a resource which you had not thought of.

The long winter nights are a great time to do some background reading of history concerning a particular location where an ancestor lived. When you come across an event or time line, which may include your ancestor, make a note of it and enter that data into your files. Studying old maps of the area and locating the changes in names of geographical locations can also give you a hint into why a particular lead went cold.

Every once in a while you should consult online search engines with various topics and surf for inspiration. Occasionally a new source or method may pop up that you never thought of before or that was not on the Internet six months ago. Before you know it, you will be unblocked and finding out more about your family history.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2007.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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