In previous articles, we have discussed the process of writing objectives to plan your research. The next step is to find and record the sources that you want to search in order to meet that objective. Locating sources can be a challenge, but there are several places you can begin.
The FamilySearch catalog is a listing of all the materials that have been microfilmed or digitized by FamilySearch, and it is possible to search by locality to determine which records are available for a specific place and time. There are also large subscription sites like Ancestry.com that provide a wide variety of records. Programs like GenSmarts can be purchased to make research suggestions, and there are many conferences and classes held by genealogical and historical societies worldwide. The Federation of Genealogical Societies has a listing of almost 500 of these organizations. Be creative with Googling, take classes, read resource books, and enjoy “the hunt” in finding what amazing records might provide new information about your family.
After entering an objective into the log, you will be given the opportunity to add a search immediately. If the objective was added previously, search your log to locate the desired objective. Click “Add Search.” In the Add Search template, there are essentially four pieces of information that need to be recorded: the title and author of the source, the jurisdiction of the search, the record type, and the scope of your search. It is also possible to add comments and/or record a Nil search.
First, select the source by typing a few letters of the title or author to trigger the dropdown box. Click on the title to be searched, or click on the green add button to add a source that is not yet in the list. When selecting the title, the author will autofill from the source list. If it’s easier to search by author, selecting from the author list will autofill the title.
Next, select the jurisdiction to be searched. This may or may not be the same as the jurisdiction of the source itself. For example, a U.S. federal census covers the jurisdiction of the entire United States. If the search will be limited to a specific state only, then the jurisdiction of the search will be that state. As another example, if you are researching an index of county probate records, then the search will obviously include the entire county since they are all indexed in the same listing. In the example of the census search for a specific state, the search jurisdiction will be different from that of the record, but in the case of the county index, the search will be the same as the record’s jurisdiction.
Be sure to include the record type for the source being searched. This is important to retrieve this entry in the future and analyze what was found. If you want to analyze all of the land record searches conducted for a specific person, you want to be able to set the search engine to retrieve the data based on both variables. In order to use that power, the information must first be recorded.
When planning a search, it is important to record precisely the scope of what will be researched. Will you be looking for a specific person, a family group, or every entry of a surname? Make the appropriate selections in the dropdowns, but also notice that there is a field for additional scope details.
Sometimes a search is limited beyond the people and jurisdiction. For example, if a record series covers 200 years, it will be wise to limit the time period of the search. Be sure to record the years to be searched. This is important in the analysis stage of research, because you may discover in the future that the event occurred earlier or later than originally anticipated. If the time period of the search was recorded, you will know whether it might be productive to return to that source.
At every step, ResearchTies allows the recording of any desired comments. This field is optional, but it’s a place to put information relevant to the search, either before or after it has been completed. If the search yields no results, return to the search template to record the date and check the Nil checkbox.