I’ve written before about the importance of being organised and focussed in your research to ensure the best results, and also about reviewing material with fresh eyes to try and breakdown research obstacles. This week’s tip is in a similar vein. It is an example of how sometimes the simplest methods lead to worthwhile breakthroughs.
With the proliferation of online and software methods for storing genealogical research, usually with an (over) emphasis on the Family Tree, we can often overlook the importance of a broad narrative. The research work we undertake for clients means that we are constantly collating and writing reports about our research findings.
This process serves a primary purpose, in that it demonstrates to the client the research work completed and the outcomes, and the relevance of these in the broader context of the project we’ve been asked to undertake. As research might be undertaken by a number of researchers over a period of time, a secondary benefit of report writing is that it can sometimes provide further insight into the topic at hand, and potential research avenues that weren’t initially considered.
Oftentimes, research begets research, in the sense that as we progress research and identify new information, or the absence thereof (remember that negative searches sometimes indicate as much a positive searches), this opens the possibility for further research.
Therefore, as well as creating a beautiful family tree, packed full of dates and other information, there is also merit in simultaneously writing out a narrative for a given ancestor(s). Often only when we look at a life or lives in this broader context do we start to spot gaps in our knowledge or further questions that could be answered. This method can also be useful for eliminating records that were considered potentially of relevance, but when viewed in a broader context can now be discounted.
And the final benefit of this method is that even in the worst case scenario, whereby the writing of the history produces no new insights, you still end up with a nice piece which can form a chapter in the family story.
By Stpehen Peirce