My research plan

Earlier in this blog I wrote that I was torn between wanting to verify facts in my family history but also wanting to explore the stories behind the facts. I also mentioned that I was overwhelmed by all the unverified data that I’d collected and didn’t know how to proceed.

Well, I’ve developed a plan and I realized I should share it here. I have over a hundred pages of five-generation ancestral charts filled out by hand back when I was just writing stuff down willy nilly without regard for accuracy. They provide some nice clues, but I’m treating as clues and nothing more.

I’ve installed Reunion on my Mac and, starting with my parents and going back in time, I’m adding family members only after I have verified their existence through vital records or censuses. (I do recognize that censuses are rife with inaccuracies, but I’m using consecutive censuses to verify.)

So far, I’ve worked back four generations, to all 16 great great grandparents, and I have a few names in the fifth generation.

This feels so good.

My tree is growing and I’m confident in its accuracy. I know that every piece of information in Reunion has a source behind it.

I know that so far I’ve had it pretty easy. The ancestors I’ve been researching were all born in the U.S. and the earliest was born in 1845. So there are a lot of easily found records to look at. I know it will get harder as I go back in time and when I start researching immigrant ancestors.

The other thing I’m doing is entering every scrap of data, with sources, into the Reunion software. So far I have 83 sources in my source list. Sometimes the data entry can feel tedious, but I know I can’t rely on my memory for anything (nor should I). For example, I’m entering Residence for every year I find an ancestor on a census. That completeness is very helpful when I go back to look at individuals. At a glance, I can see how long they lived in a given location.

Having this plan has made me feel much less overwhelmed by doing family history research. It makes it very easy when I sit down to do some research to get right to work.


  1. Vickie Sheridan says:

    Janine – I just finished reading all of your posts and I can totally identify. I also am an “amateur genealogist” and love it! I also have lots of info from several years ago with no sources. I am now in the process of going back and verifying lots of info. I attended an all day workshop yesterday in Belleville by the St. Clair County Genealogical Society. I had four lectures by Ann Carter Fleming who is very involved in with the St. Louis Gen. Soc, past president of the National Genealogical Society and involved with the St. Louis County Lib. She has a great book called the Organized Family Historian. It is out of print but available at the library. Two of the tips I learned yesterday were to create a Timeline for your family members. It helps to keep the info straight and you can see at a glance the info you might be missing, etc. She also explained the importance of checking every census record for a person. You might find them on one year and believe the info. (DOB, etc) but in checking five other census records learn something different. It sounds like you are already doing that. You are lucky to still have many older relatives alive to talk to. Talk to them NOW because memories fade. I only have one aunt who is 93 left and she doesn’t really remember a lot of info. Good luck on your search. I’m looking forward to reading about the journey!

    • Vickie, thank you so much for your comment! That workshop sounds great and I’m sorry I missed it! I’m going to have to sign up for the St. Clair County Genealogical Society’s mailing list. I really appreciate the tips. Good luck with your research. Let’s stay in touch!

  2. Kristen Campbell says:

    What a great idea for a blog! I LOVE family history and research; thanks for sharing your journey!

  3. Stephanie Higgs says:

    Janine,you have just described the organisation task I have just started to implement. AFter many moons and collecting mountains of partially referenced family/genealogy entries, the moment of truth has arrived. I shall have to allocate regular time slots to catch up with my neglected documentation.I live in UK, and am completing an online genealogy course with FutureLearn who provided the link to your blog on Transpose, but find a kindred spirit in your many blogs entries. Thanks a lot.

    • Stephanie, thanks so much for your commenting. You can get your documentation done little by little and it will feel so good!! Best of luck. If you run into any challenges you’d like me to try to blog about, let me know.

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