I’m so glad to bring you another post in my How They Do It series! This month’s interview is with Julie Goucher, a UK genealogist and one-name study expert who was recommended by a reader. Julie is a well-respected writer and speaker on genealogy and is the Pharos Tutor for three One-Name Studies/Surname studies courses. She is a Trustee for the Guild of One-Name Studies and has two One-Name Studies for the surnames Orlando and Butcher, which represent her parents. Julie writes for several genealogy magazines, including Family Tree Magazine (UK) and Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine. Most recently she wrote a Surname Research Guide for the Guild of One-Name Studies, a new course for Pharos on the practicalities for One-Name Studies and is currently writing a book called Last One Standing which should publish later this year. You can keep up to date with Julie at https://anglersrest.net.
How They Do It: Julie Goucher
How long have you been doing genealogy?
Since 1988, so about 32 years. Where did that time go?
What’s your favorite thing about being a genealogist?
The thrill of the chase of information plus the journey our research takes us on. Not to mention the friendships we make along the way as we research and connect with others.
What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to organizing your genealogy?
Keeping on track with the research and filing documents and items away when I am researching. I do though consistently keep notes.
What is your favorite technology tool for genealogy?
I think this has to be the availability of the internet, which shrinks the world to the size of a matchbox and a smart phone.
If you were starting out new as a genealogist what would you do differently?
Spend more time with family members, asking questions. Even though I did that, there is still many I wish I had asked. The other thing I would do differently is to research and “deal” with that research immediately so there was no paper backlog.
Do you keep a research log? If so, what format?
Yes, I do. I am a prolific note taker, so have research logs since I began researching, though those early ones are sketchy in places. I have used a written log and an electronic log, which I kept as a spreadsheet. My favourite way is via pen and paper. I use a notebook and use it confirm what I have researched and what I have found (or not found). I build a to do list at the same time.
How do you keep track of clues or ideas for further research?
Trusty notebook and pen. On occasion I use my notes area of my iPhone, but these are migrated to my notebook as soon as I can. I use the same for blog posts, articles and presentation ideas too. I also date everything. Notebooks of choice are Leuchttrum1917 for notetaking and journaling. I use a Traveller’s notebook system for a catch all when I am on the move. I recently have moved into a A5 Filofax for organising and planning blog posts, especially useful if I am working on a series.
How do you go about sharing your personal research with cousins or other interested parties?
Blog and newsletter and website. I do have online trees, but they are not my preferred method.
What’s the most important thing you do to prepare for a research trip?
Consider the aims of the trip. What specifics I want to locate, and I always do background reading. The most important thing I can share is to note down or photograph, if you can, all the records you see. Just in case surnames that originate in one area have moved to another. Our people were more migratory that we really think. If I am not sure if it is the same family, I note it down, and assess later as opposed to discounting it during the trip. Also, date everything.
What’s your biggest piece of advice to genealogists in terms of organizing their research?
Keep it simple! Use the right tools for the job and take the time to learn how to use a piece of software. Make use of genealogical programmes for studies that do not involve just your family lines, such as a surname study or place research. Spreadsheets are good, but they are not meant for storing or creating family trees.
Do you have a dedicated space in your home for doing genealogy research? What’s it like?
Yes, I have an office at home. It has too many books, or perhaps too few bookcases! Two filing cabinets, an armchair, desk and shredder. I also have a stand with my printer (and several piles of filing) and a seat which houses a lot of genealogical data CDs. The tops of my filing cabinet house boxes of photos.
Do you have anything to add?
Genealogy gives me a great deal of pleasure, as do the friendships I have made along the way. The documentation that archives hold is so very important as that adds evidences to our family tree. Not everything is online, and the other important factor is citing the source. Even if you only cite where the material was found and not much else, it is better than nothing. The point of a citation is that you and others can follow the research pathway using the citations you provide.
I’m so grateful to Julie for taking the time to answer these questions. I found myself nodding as I read her responses, particularly the bits about processing documents as you find them and making decisions about whether something is relevant after you get home from a research trip, not during. And, of course, the advice about citing sources–even if it’s an imperfect citation–is so on point. Thank you, Julie!