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Principles of Family History Research Gotoarrow.png Step 4. Obtain and Search the Records Gotoarrow.png Record the Results

Document and organize as you go! Record the results of every search, negative or positive, on the research log so you will not needlessly repeat searches.

Document and organize AS YOU GO!

If the Search Result Is Negative

If the search result is negative (fails to find anything relevant to the family)—
  1. Write nil or Ø in your research log’s results field.
  2. Continue trying to document the same event as before, but using a different spelling of the name, a different source, substitute record type, different jurisdiction, different repository, or a substitute kin or associate.

If you did not find information about your objective in the record, note those results by your description of that record in your research log. Many researchers use a word such as nil or a symbol such as Ø in the results space on their log. This will show you do not need to repeat this search later for the same person. Also, the accumulation of negative evidence (shown by too many nils) may help you realize you should search a different area or another record type to find the information you are seeking.

Keep at it. Do not give up on your research objective
just because of one negative search result.

Continue to pursue the same research objective by conducting a new search using a—

  • substitute spelling of the name (for Batson try Batsen, Badson, or Patson)
  • substitute record (for a cemetery record try a different transcript of the same cemetery)
  • substitute record type (for a cemetery record substitute a funeral home record)
  • substitute jurisdiction (for Knox County substitute Knoxville (town), Tennessee (state), United States (nation), or Jefferson County (neigboring county)
  • substitute repository (from the county courthouse switch to the county historical society)
  • or a substitute kin or associate (if you can't find George, maybe his son Bryan's records will lead to answers)

For further strategies to help with continuing research after some negative searches see:

If the Search Result Is Positive

If the search result is positive do these nine tasks BEFORE starting another search—

Photocopy
1. Photocopy the source.
2. Write or print footnote data in the margin on front.
3. Write on back the document number you assign to the copy.

Research Log
4. Finish your research log by filling-in your assigned document number and summarizing the search results.

Family Group Record
5. Transfer each piece of family history data from each new source to your family group record.
6. Cite (footnote) ALL sources found for EACH event on your family group record.
7. Use the footnotes comment area to give a preliminary evaluation of the source.
8. Print and file the updated family group record.

Photocopy
9. File the source photocopy.

Record every search, negative or
positive, on the research log.

When you find something, if possible, make a copy, preferably a photocopy. A photocopy preserves the information as it was presented in the original record and provides complete information for future reference. If photocopies are not possible, transcribe the information carefully and thoroughly. Seek to include the context with the copy.

At times it may be more efficient to abstract or extract (see Formats of Records) complex, lengthy documents, such as deeds or wills. Be sure to indicate the location of the original record you searched in your abstract. You may want to copy one of the records as an example of the others that were abstracted.

Putting the footnote information on the front of the copy helps identify it, and gets you started on evaluating the source. Be sure that the author, title, page number, repository, document date, and call number of the record you copied are on the copy and on your research log. Most researchers assign a file number to each document and write that number on their copy and their log.

When you find relevant information in the record, write a brief note summarizing those results on your research log.

Record enough information on the research log to show if the objective was accomplished or if more analysis is needed. See the example of a filled-in homemade log at Prepare a Research Log.

How you transfer the information from your source to update your family group record, and properly source footnote that information is described next in Transfer the Information.


 

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  • This page was last modified on 21 November 2012, at 11:51.
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