I was excited to present a class on research logs at RootsTech 2019. Research logs are the workhorse of my research process so I love helping others learn to use them to organize their research. Here is a synopsis of my lecture. I’m also including a PDF of my slides and my syllabus at the end of the article.
What is a Research Log?
Simply put, a research log is a record of what you are looking for, where you looked, and what you found. In the research process, notice that research logs come into play after creating your objective, analyzing what you’ve already found, learning about the location, and creating a research plan. The log is where you create your source citations and is the key to writing up conclusions because it is holds all of the research you’ve been doing.
Why Use a Research Log?
You may wonder why it is really necessary to have a research log. Here are my 8 reasons:
Track positive and negative searches
Note the date a database was searched.
Create source citations to be used other places.
Show at a glance what has been found.
Evaluate information and evidence.
Be more productive and efficient in research.
Avoid duplication of effort.
Break through brick walls with better record keeping.
Types of Research Logs
During the presentation, I discussed four different types of research logs – each with it’s own purpose.
The Research Notebook: used for keeping track of day-to-day research such as attaching hints on FamilySearch or Ancestry.
The Electronic Research Log: used to track all the research for a specific project, individual, or family.
The Handwritten research Log Form: used to research in a repository where only paper is allowed or when your computer is unavailable.
The Online Database Research Ties: helpful for extracting all surnames from a large database.
Using a Research Log to Solve a Research Problem
I used the case of Georgia A. Dawson to demonstrate how I finally put to rest a document I had been holding on to for years. In my quest to discover the father of my Cynthia (Dillard) Royston, I had come across an abstract of a will naming Georgia A. Dawson and her two nieces: Mary and Sarah Royston. Could this be my Cynthia’s daughters? She had a Mary and Sarah Royston as two of her fourteen children and was living just one county away from Georgia during the 1850s.
I decided to use this research question as the basis for one of my Research Like a Pro study groups and created this objective and research plan.
Categories for a Research Log
I shared how to use the following categories for an electronic research log and gave examples using the marriage record I located for Georgia A. Dawson.
Date – List the date the search was performed. Some databases are updated periodically and need to be rechecked at a later date.
Repository – Record the website, library, archive, or other physical location that holds the source.
URL/Call#/Microfilm# – The unique call # or microfilm # at a library or archive. Copy and past the URL, use Bitly.com to shorten.
Searching For – List the specific search: record type and name.
Locality – List the specific locality: city, county, state or country.
Source Citation – Create by using the 5 questions (see slide below).
Results/Comments – Use NIL for not in location. Abstract information for lengthy documents. Copy names exactly.
What Did I Learn?
By following my research plan and tracking all of my searches in my research log, I discovered the family of Georgia A. Dawson. Her marriage record revealed the name of her husband and the original images of her probate file gave much information that indirectly connected her to her parents and siblings.
Was she connected to my Cynthia (Dillard) Royston? As it turns out, no. Now I can finally put that question to rest. Georgia’s nieces, Mary and Sarah Royston were the daughters of her oldest sister who married a George D. Royston, not my Thomas Beverly Royston.
My research log was key in solving this case with 26 entries. As I wrote up my research in a report, I referred back to the log repeatedly for source citations and the details. Research logs truly are the key to organized genealogy!
If you’re interested in watching this presentation as a live webinar on May 9th, I’ll be presenting it for the Georgia Genealogical Society. Registration is now open.
Best of luck in all of your genealogical endeavors!
Slides: Research Logs RootsTech 2019
To practice using research logs while doing a genealogy research project, you may want to sign up for my Research Like a Pro online course. Rondie, who went through the Research Like a Pro process, found that using a research log help her solve a long standing family mystery!
To use the 40% off coupon from RootsTech, go here: https://familylocket.com/rootstech/. The coupon expires Sunday, March 10, 2019.