Using a Research Log in a DNA Research Project
Have you discovered the value of using a research log? If not, you might want to experiment with using one for your next research project. Fine tuning a research log that worked for me was a major benefit of the accreditation process. When I started adding DNA as evidence in my research, I needed to tweak the log to reflect my correspondence with my DNA matches.
I’ve shared each step of my DNA research project to prove Benjamin Cox as the father of Rachel Cox and linked to those articles below. Now it’s time to reveal my research plan and show how my research log helped to make sense of the information I gathered.
Previous Steps in the Research Process
In crafting my objective for this research project, I used the key identifiers for both Benjamin Cox and Rachel Cox.
The objective of this research project is to prove Benjamin Cox as the father of Rachel Cox through DNA evidence and traditional genealogy research. Benjamin Cox was born about 1791 in Ohio and died between 1870 and 1880 in Bell County, Texas. Rachel Cox was born about 1828 in Indiana and died between 1870 and 1880 in Falls County, Texas. Rachel married Hickman Monroe Shults on 4 July 1848 in Navarro County, Texas.
My next step was to analyze the sources I had gathered through the years on Benjamin and Rachel Cox. Putting the pieces together in a timeline verified why I had hypothesized Benjamin as the father of Rachel. They followed the same migration path from Indiana to Texas. Rachel’s husband, Hickman Monroe Shults, was a fellow road commissioner with Benjamin Cox in Navarro County, Texas, and I had eliminated several other Cox men as candidates.
Looking at the DNA side of the research, Ancestry Thrulines provided several possible DNA matches through other hypothesized children of Benjamin Cox. Enough DNA was present to make proving this hypothesis a real possibility.
Previous research on Benjamin and Rachel had centered in Texas and Arkansas. I had done nothing in Ohio or Indiana – two locations for Benjamin Cox and his family identified by census records. Benjamin had likely been born in Ohio in 1791 and moved to Indiana by 1830. Learning about the history and records available for this time period was the next part of the process. I created locality guides for both locations to guide in the research planning.
The first step in creating a research plan is to create a hypothesis about the research subject based on the timeline analysis. Next is to identify the sources from the locality guide that could be used in the research, then to prioritize the searches. My research plan included working in the records of Ross County, Ohio, and Monroe County, Indiana. My DNA research plan centered on using various tools for working with the Cox DNA matches.
An essential element of research is source citations and as I worked through the Cox project I used them to add credibility to my research in both the traditional records and the DNA. I created the citations as I researched for the traditional records, but found that working with DNA was a little different. I tracked my DNA analysis in my research log, then created my DNA source citations for the research report.
Documentary Research Log
After creating a research plan, the next step is to follow the plan and log each search in the research log.
The first step of my Cox research plan involved searching probate records for Bell County, Texas, Benjamin’s last known residence. A probate record would be the logical place for him to designate Rachel as his daughter and this source needed to be explored. I also wanted to do a tax survey of Ross County, Ohio, and an 1820 census survey of Ohio and Indiana for Benjamin Cox. My research log was invaluable in tracking the various searches in the probate, tax, and census records.
Ancestry had a variety of probate records available for Bell County, Texas, and as I viewed each microfilm, I entered the information in my research log, as well as a source citation. A reasonably exhaustive search warranted viewing each film. The negative results indicated that Benjamin likely had no property to dispose of at his death and thus no probate needed.
As I filled out the research log I included the following key elements.
Date: Put the complete date to serve as a reminder of when a certain database was searched or repository visited.
Repository: Record the website, the courthouse, library, etc. so it is easy to see at a glance where you’ve researched.
URL / Call #/ Microfilm#: Add a link to the online record to enable further reference to the record during the research process.
Searching for: Include a short statement of the type of record being searched to sort by record type.
Locality: State the specific locality here. In this example I put the state first so I could sort by state since I had Ohio, Arkansas, and Texas records included.
Date: Add the date of the record found or the dates of the records searched for negative results.
Source: Create the complete source citation the first time a source is viewed.
Results/Comments: Make notes of how the collection was searched and what was found or not found.
The screenshot below shows a portion of my research log for the probate research. I viewed the index for each microfilm to ensure that Benjamin Cox was not listed. My entries detail exactly what I searched so I won’t have to repeat this research. Although I didn’t find any probate for Benjamin, I had completed that step of my research plan and could move on.
DNA Correspondence Log
As I worked through my research plan, I realized that I needed to track my correspondence with the Cox DNA matches. Here are the headings and an example with names changed.
DNA match name and link to profile: Jane Smith
Kit manager: John Smith
DNA company: Ancestry
Amount of Shared DNA – cM/ percent : 8 cM 1 segments
Date Written : 9 May 2019
Date Received : 10 May 2019
Estimated relationship : 4C 1R
Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) : Jane Smith > George Smith > Nancy Smith > George Riley Cox > William Thomas Cox > Benjamin Cox & Casiah Barbee
Name of Family Tree and link: Smith/Cox Family Tree
Information received : Sent spreadsheet and DNA Painter profile
Next Steps : Compare on GEDmatch
Additional Contact Information : email, phone, address
GEDMatch Kit #:
GEDMatch results: segment information
How did tracking this information help? Most of the matches didn’t respond, but Jane Smith was very helpful and shared her own DNA research. We found a shared Thrulines match and a cousin on GEDmatch that triangulated on our shared segment. As I continue to find new matches on the Cox line, I can contact them, add them to the correspondence log and know what I’ve done.
Adding DNA to our research can seem daunting, but the simple process of tracking the matches in a research log can make all the difference. If you haven’t been keeping a research log for both the traditional research as well as DNA, I encourage you to give it a try. You may never go back to random searching again.
Best of luck in all your genealogy research!
Read the entire series here: