We now have our focused research question and we have started our research calendar. What’s next? We need to know what documents sets are available for the location we are interested in. Once we know that, we can add pertinent sources to our research calendar.
One of the first places I go to get an idea of what all might be available is the FamilySearch Wiki. There is a page for every county and the pages are constantly being updated by researchers with the latest info. The second place I go is the Family History Library’s Card Catalog. This is where I can find out what has been microfilmed. I also check with the state archives. Many times they have sources that no one else has. I also check online repositories such as Ancestry.com.
After you have done all of this research to see what is available for your location, you will want to record that information somewhere. Six months from now when you are researching someone else in this same county you will save yourself a lot of time if you saved this information. I have a research binder in Microsoft OneNote. I have a tab for each state and a page for each county. It doesn’t take any time at all to record what sources I found. I usually just copy and paste the info.
Here is a small piece of what I have on Washington County, Mississippi.
I did a simple copy and paste on FamilySearch and it gave me beautiful links. At the bottom of the page it automatically date and time stamps it so I know how current the information is.
Now that you know what is available, you can add the sources you want to check to your research calendar along with a short blurb about what you are hoping to find.
Even though you are doing your survey online to see what is available, not all of the documents will be available online. As a matter of fact, only a small percentage is. You must be willing to make phone calls and write letters or you won’t be conducting a “reasonably exhaustive search” which is part of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS). We will be talking more about the GPS later.
Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis