Step-by-Step: My Intractable Problem

nose in bookA dose of my own medicine! On 12 February I blogged about steps to solve problems using a research plan. But, I think an example is so much better to illustrate the value of compiling our work, especially when we are trying to solve our intractable genealogical problems. This post outlines, step-by-step, how I built a research plan using the methodology outlined in the blog post “Strategic Thinking: A Research Plan.”

I admit I have done much research on my Friedrich Eilers (FE), some of it targeted and some of it “grazing.” This is my attempt to formalize the output, focus on the process and give my some research discipline.

As we know the Genealogical Proof Standard exhorts us to do reasonably exhaustive “REsearch,” not exhaustive “search.” The implication is, of course, that “researching” is far more disciplined and expects the genealogist to select the record sets that are most likely to provide the needed information.

I am seeking to identify Friedrich Eilers, who was the groom in the second marriage to my great-grandmother Eda/Ida (van Hoorn) Berg in October of 1861 and who after November 1862 was never referred to again in any known document in connection with my family.

I have taken the steps from the previous post and sequentially attached the report as I built it-step-by-step.  To make it easier for you to see what I added, I have changed the type face to red for the items that apply to that particular step of this methodology and which have been added after the previous document. Let’s see how it works.

Phase 1: Recording all you know.

1. Start fresh. Act (and think) like you have never seen this problem before.
comment: I took a yoga class and focused on “dispassionate observation.” It works for me.
document: be-rp-1

2. Clearly state your research question and write it down. Make your individual of interest unique in the world using the “known facts of the case.” Write your question at the top of a blank document. Make it 14 pt. font and bold.
comment: I make research questions very specific in the description of the individual. Keep in mind that identity comes before relationships. If I want to know the parents of X, I first have to clarify the identity of X. Therefore, I usually start with “Identify X who did so-and-so and such-and-such.” I don’t think I make great research questions, so you are on your own here.
document: be-rp-2

3. Gather together every shred of evidence that you already have that relates to the individual or his/her relatives, business associates etc.
comment: I don’t have much, but I was surprised at how many documents I needed to get the timeline filled with the pertinent sources.
documents: I did this concurrently with no. 4 below.

4. Document by document, write what you know, based on what you have. Start with the citation and then summarize what is contained within the source. Transcribe and abstract any documents with handwriting. If your document is a census, record the neighbors of at least 10 families in each direction. Label this section “Background.”
comment: I have followed Ida for years, but I looked at everything again. Notice that there is a gap between 1864 and 1871 where I have nothing.
document: be-rp-4

5. Note whether the “thing you are holding in your hand,” the source, is an original, derivative or authored work; whether the information is primary, secondary, or indeterminable; and whether the evidence is direct, indirect or negative in response to your research question. Don’t stop with just categorizing your documents. Instead, analyze the quality of your sources.  If there is a need and ability to obtain a better record, i.e. closer to the event, enter it on your Research Plan.
comment: This implies that you have a Research Plan set up already on your document. If you haven’t done so, type a heading of “Research Plan” at the bottom of your document. Record your sources you need to obtain to improve the quality of the ones you have.
document: be-rp-5

6. As you are doing no. 5 above, identify all FAN Club members and place in a table with the date of interaction and the role your ancestor played in that interaction. Label this “FAN Club.” keep the interactions in chronological order–you are building a timeline.
comment:  My FAN Club consists of people who have interacted with Ida but not with Friedrich. I have no known FAN Club members for FE, but that’s what we are trying to solve. Should I find any, that will be a huge clue.
document: be-rp-6

7. Add known dates of importance of your individual of interest to your timeline. Depending on your problem, there may be [timelines of] other key individuals (in a separate column) you wish to add to your timeline [of your person of interest].
comment:  FE gets added with the hope I can fill out more information about FE candidates as I begin to research. I didn’t make red the whole table, but you get the idea.
document: be-rp-7

8. If appropriate, take your timeline and expand it to a table, which includes all people you think might be relevant to your investigation–family, candidates for identity (for example, all your possible John Smiths), business partners, and other members of the FAN Club you developed in item 7 above. Add their events to their timeline as well.
comment: For now, without doing the actual research, I anticipate that I will have multiple candidates for FE. A German name in a German area cannot be unique.
document: be-rp-8

Phase 2: Research researching

9.  Identify the sources that are most likely to yield salient information based on what you know. Add the list to your document and label this ”Research Plan.” Each resource should include a draft of the citation. Put the citation in bold.
comment: I already had five sources I needed to obtain by the time I finished with the known information, so I reprioritzed and added to the list of five. Certainly some of these could fall off the list as I gain more information. A basic principle of research is that you start in the US, yet my biggest clue is the birthplace in Germany, Ober Gleen. That’s a bit of a conundrum.
document: be-rp-9

10. Review Part 2 of Val Greenwood’s book for a list of types of sources.  Place “likely suspects” on your research plan.
comment: I know Stephenson County pretty well and some documents just do not exist, e.g. newspapers before 1890. Greenwood lists the following: newspapers, vital records, censuses, probate records, wills, guardianships, land (local and federal), other court records, church records, military and cemetery and burial records. I believe that I have either addressed by placing on my research plan or exhausted all these more typical records. I have added a narrative at the bottom of the document for the searches in each record type so I have an explanation of why I am not pursuing those sources.  It would be better if I had these as citations. In the future, I need to move some of my past research log information over to fill this out.
document: be-rp-10

11. Read the FamilySearch wiki for your particular locality for additional resources. [2]
comment: The FS wiki is a go-to place for me for locality research. Research every jurisdictional level: country, state, county, court. If you do a lot of research in one area, consider writing a locality guide so you don’t lose all this fabulous work you are doing. consider also Cyndi’s List and Linkpendium.
document: be-rp-11

12. Conduct a locality or topical search in Family Search and Ancestry catalog (this is different than the wiki mentioned  in 11.) Click through every entry in the catalog to identify film you ought to order or if the film has been indexed or uploaded and not indexed.
comment: I have looked at the Ober Gleen Family Search catalog before, but now I see that FS has added an index! This is a very “bright shiny object” for me and I must, for now, let it go. I need to complete these other tasks before I get to points 14 and 15. Your Research Plan might be getting quite long right now.
document: be-rp-12

13. Review the National Genealogical Society (NGS) States series to determine if your state is included. These wonderful books are an overview of resources and repositories that are state specific and which include archives and repositories you may not have thought of. Record any likely repositories.
comment: Illinois has a terrific state series book but I wonder if I am over looking the surrounding states?  Stephenson County is on the border of Wisconsin; could FE have lived in WI and been visiting or doing business in Freeport for some other reason? I think I need to widen my area of focus–but that will be for another day.
document: be-rp-13

Phase 3: Researching
To this point, we have just been building (adding to) our research plan, now we start looking at some of the resources we identified.

14. Based on your research plan, conduct the research of your top priority source. If you think of a new resource to check, just add it to your research plan in priority order. Always write out a skeleton citation.
comment: The bright shiny object calls!! 
confession:  There are two approaches: I could look in census records in the US or look in the Ober Gleen birth records. The census records are hard because there is so little information–I don’t even have a birth year for Friedrich.  Assuming there are multiple FEs in Ober Gleen, I am going to work the Ober Gleen records first and fill out the table that is in landscape mode. 

15. Do your on site research. If you cannot travel, then enlist a friend or hire a genealogist in the area. Revisit your research plan and add new sources (as citations) as they are identified.
comment: And just like they show on television– I hopped on a plane and flew to Salt Lake City to meet with the German expert.  I (driving a big black SUV) found a parking place right in front of the library! No one was in the library except for THE expert on Ober Gleen records (probably Fritz Juengling!).  He already had found what i was looking for, translated it and gave me a very nice Family Group Sheet and pedigree chart scribed in lovely calligraphy–NOT! 🙂
document: be-rp-15

Findings at this point, are the following:

There is only one Friedrich Euler/Eiler who appeared in this time frame in Ober Gleen. He is my top candidate. The rest of the Fred/Fritz/etc. Eilers/Eilerts etc. just do not have the Ober Gleen connection that is so necessary for this resolution.

  1. It is not known where Friedrich Euler was born. he does not appear in the Ober Gleen birth records; however, from the point of the birth of his first child in 1842 to his emigration in 1860, Ober Gleen appeared to be his residence.
  2. Friedrich Euler and  Gertraud Schoenhals had six children, five of which were born before they married.
  3. Friedrich Euler and Gertraud Schoenhals finally married in 1855
  4. Friedrich immigrated in 1860 to Illinois. It is not known why he picked Illinois as no FAN Club member has yet been identified as living in Illinois and he appeared to travel alone.
  5. Friedrich married Eda Berg in 1861 in Stephenson County, Illinois.
  6. Gertraud and the children emigrated in August/September of 1862.
  7. Eda used the Eyler surname in November of 1862 and then never used it again.
  8. In 1872, son John (Johannes, b. 1848) married Rosina Hoffman in Stephenson County, firmly placing at least one family member in the county.
  9. There is no divorce noted in Stephenson County for FE and IB.

16. Order those FHL films you identified in your catalog review or better yet, take a trip to Salt Lake City and do your research there in the company of research experts who can help.
comment: I am going to quit now. I have other things to do, but I have made real progress on this “intractable problem.” There are many things yet to research before any conclusions can be drawn, but I have built a great summary document to build upon in the future.

17. Re-conduct old research. We are smarter now then we were five years ago.
comment: When I was a baby genealogist I was told to “really study your sources so you got all the information from them.” What people didn’t tell me is that it didn’t matter how good I thought I was THEN, I am better now and you probably do have to re-review your sources, especially those related to your tough problems.

18. Check the family trees in Family Search and Ancestry. Yes, I know they are rift with errors and are usually undocumented, but they can offer clues and should be used.
comment: In looking at the trees, no one identified that Friedrich and Gertraud emigrated.  They recognize that Johannes and Heinrich did, but no one connects the passenger lists of the family or Friedrich. So the trees, for this study did not provide any clues i could build on.  

19. Record ALL searches, including those that yield nothing. Constantly update your research plan. Record all your findings including your negative searches. Label these Negative Findings.
comment: This is the part that can really help you, should you have to put the research down to do other things–like laundry.  I am not satisfied with how the research paper ends…it is rather messy and needs some work to gather the information together in a more coherent form. But, that, too, is for another day.

20. Repeat.

What you have now, even if you did not solve your problem is a document which:

  1. Documents your  known information
  2. Identifies gaps in your existing sources
  3. Sets you up for the analysis of your documents
  4. Serves as a summary of your work to date and even if you set it down, you will have this terrific record of your findings for later
  5. Records where you searched and found nothing so you won’t redo that work, unless you decide to re-energize no. 17, and
  6. Outlines your next steps

Whew! If you got to the end of this blog–congratulations!  You get the gold star.

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last post: worked on this blog! I also conducted the second session of the online Certification Discussion Group; worked on a client report, and worked in “fits and starts” on my DNA problem.

[1] A gentleman in a presentation I gave on determining identity asked “He’s a second husband with no children, why do you even care?” My response was, “Friedrich Eilers is an itch I cannot scratch.”

[2] FamilySearch wiki:


OTC Quick Tip! Document Work

For those of you on the clock (OTC)….

One of the portfolio submission requirements is to transcribe, abstract and develop a research plan for two documents–one that is BCG supplied and one that is a personal choice.

BK NC Research LearyHave you read North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History? [1] Helen F.M. Leary, CG, FASG, editor,  does a super job of laying out strategies for assessment of documents in Chapter 2.”Designing Research Strategies,” co-authored with Lee Albright. Two types of genealogists might find this book of interest….those who are beginning their genealogical careers and those who want to verify their work by consulting with “a master.”

This  is a great resource  and I am starting to use it more and more.  Did I mention that I don’t even have North Carolina ancestors?—my folks traveled straight away from NYC into the Midwest, but this book is a terrific resource for all aspects of genealogy.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last post: Worked on the program for the Ostfriesen Genealogical Society biennial conference, presented to a Mercer Island retirement group, and worked on my case study and took a new client….my first related to house histories.

[1] Helen F.M. Leary, CG, FASG, ed., North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History, 2nd ed. (Raleigh: North Carolina Genealogical Society, 1996)

You can buy the book new for $55 from the NCGS.  I got mine used. Here is the link to the Society:

What are some resources of help for writing the KDP?

BCG materialsI found some good templates from the New England Historical & Genealogical Society website.  For those of you embedded into the NE this may be old news but I found that some of the templates potentially very helpful:

  1. a research log that actually might work for me, i.e simple and doesn’t “try too hard”
    I have struggled with finding a research log that is easy enough to use that I actually–use it!  This might be the answer.
  2. a template for Register style genealogical summaries in Word (!)
    I know we all struggle with how to put the Kinship Determination Project (KDP) information in the proper form.  (actually Word is just a little TOO helpful and assumes too many things resulting in one (usually me) fighting with it to have it do things like number the children correctly. ) NEHGS has developed a template for you to use to assist in writing.  This is set up for Register style which is too bad that the Q does not do something similar for the Q style.
  3. an editorial style sheet
    I had read about style sheets but had forgotten about them.  An editorial style sheet is your “cheat sheet” for your writing, in this case the case study and the KDP.  It includes rules for capitalization or title point size or how to handle birth names.  It can also include words you commonly use but misspell and commonly used citation formats.  I am definitely going to spend some time and get this set up.  I share what I end up with.

I got my BCG packet the other day and this is a photo of what I received.  Only item included in the packet but not shown  in the photo is the BCG-supplied document.  I did declare my area of interest to be late 1800’s Midwest, which is where I have done all of my personal research in the US.

I have also put a tickler on my calendar that every month I will reread the rubrics and the Application Guide (not the samples).  This will keep me on track with fewer (I hope) diversions.  One of the major reasons for not obtaining certification is the failure to follow the rules.

Here is the link to the website for the templates above and others that you might find of use.

You might also find this article about writing the family history (KDP-ish) interesting:

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last post:  Cleaned up a lot of other things including completing SGS newsletter, doing some deep research on Sweden in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s (geopolitical history, literacy standards, agrarian standards etc.), listened to some CDs from the NGS conference that I bought, listened to my NGS Live Streaming sessions that I bought, read and re-read Numbering your Genealogy by Crane, Curren and Wray (it’s a “gotta have.”), commented on my ProGen cohort’s assignments of the family histories (all very interesting), finished my presentation on GPS #5 and the worksheet etc. and posted it on my blog (also notified attendees of the GPS #4 that it was available), finished up my presentation on my case study on Grietje Wientjes, submitted seven presentations to FGS and have Ohio’s ready to go, and completed the presentation and submitted the syllabus for WSGS Self Publishing presentation in August. I am, for some reason, procrastinating about the work on the OGSA conference and I HAVE to give it some attention.

What did I learn about certification at SLIG?

The tone of the conversation about certification is changing.  I noticed the “change” in the first day of the Advanced Methodology course as Dr. Jones took numerous opportunities to make the process of applying and obtaining certification seem attainable to a greater number of potential applicants than before.

In my own mind, a mystique built around the application process.  I felt, even understood, that I must have certain institutes and other criteria met before I am eligible to apply.  Certain materials reinforced my mindset:

  • Quiz on the BCG page [1]:  Have you read two years of five journals worth of articles?  These are valuable to read but if you haven’t, you lose points and then you may not be “qualified.” I am not sure that the family lineages of the east coast as presented in the NEHGR and TAG are all that pertinent to me whose earliest ancestor immigrated in 1854 and went straight to Illinois.  NGSQ focuses more on methodology and I learn a lot from those articles, wherever the proof argument is located.
  • BCG portfolios at conferences:  These nearly “perfect” examples have certainly made this potential applicant reticent to apply.
  •  Number who are certified yearly:  It does not help when we see one person get certified in a quarter.  This makes it appear that of the many that must apply (of course, we don’t know how many actually apply) only an extremely small percentage must qualify.

I am sure that none of the above is the single thing that has kept me from applying but it does ascribe a criteria which if not accomplished sent a negative message to this potential applicant.

At a breakfast at the end of SLIG attended by 15+ attendees including certified and uncertified individuals, the discussion centered around how there are two types of genealogists who apply for certification: those that aren’t ready at all and the “over readies.”  The latter group has every box checked, every institute attended, every NGSQ+ article read and analyzed and every citation template memorized.  The “over readies” work beyond the level necessary to achieve certification and seem to be striving for perfection.

 Let’s be clear…I am not, nor are the people I spoke to, saying it is easy or frivolous to attain certification, just attainable–and perhaps more attainable than we, the applicants, are making it.

Tom Jones and Judy Russell also reduced the focus from citations to correlation.  The application process is less about the form and more about substance.  Both iterated that getting an A was not the goal but that passing was.  Judy noted that no one gets a different certificate if they “pass” better than the next applicant.

Some certified individuals made it clear that the reason why they failed the first time was because they did not follow directions.  Lesson Learned:  Follow the directions!  But one individual also failed a portion of an element of the portfolio and still passed! The advice was– it is better to fail on form–something correctable–then to fail on correlation or analytical thought process.  Form is easily corrected; an inability to correlate is not.

I am being urged to apply and submit.  I will put in my application to go “on the clock” in the next four weeks.  I want to time this so it doesn’t land too close to the holidays and after my computer comes back from the Apple Hospital!

A new standards manual comes out in the next week and I have my copy on pre-order.  I will be pouring over it and I am sure that in short time frame it will be as dog eared and tabbed as the previous edition.  Tom Jones noted a significant change is the title.  Have you noticed?  It is no longer The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual [2] but is rather Genealogy Standards [3]– for all genealogists– a significant and important modification.

 Happy Hunting!


 What I have done since the last posting: watched my two favorite pro football teams duke it out to play each other in the Super Bowl!  Now who do I root for? I have a couple of posts ready to publish but I had to wait until my desk top got back from the Apple Hospital which it now is.  Woo hoo!  I apologize in advance for a cluster of postings which are appearing a week after the SLIG event.  corrected this post per Judy Russell’s comment.

[1], accessed 25 January 2014.

[2] Board for Certification of Genealogists, The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual (New York: Turner Publishing Co., 2000).

[3] — , Genealogy Standards, 50th Anniversary Edition (Nashville, Tenn. : Ancestry, 2014).  Book has yet to be distributed but the preorder price is less if you purchase by January 27th!

GPS Element 3: Analysis and Correlation

How many sessions at conferences or webinars have you attended where they talk ABOUT the Genealogical Proof Standards (GPS) [1] and its five elements, but then did not show us how to apply each element to a real world problem much less apply it to our own readings and writings?  I have been taking the Mastering Genealogical Proof class based on the book of the same name by Thomas W. Jones [2].  I am finding it very informative (however, I will be the first to admit there are some moments that, for me, were incredibly dry.)

I will address each of the five elements of the GPS in separate blogs and apply each to what i specifically have learned in that chapter.  I hope you will share your findings as well.  Application is the component which is missing in most presentations.  Even if we “know we should know it”–do we really understand how to apply the GPS to our genealogical work?  I will also confess upfront that this has been an evolving awakening on my part.  Once again, I am struck by how much I do not know about qualitative analysis.

Some of you may have been followers of this blog when I wrote my first two blogs on qualitative analysis over two years ago:

Are there tools which can improve our analytical skills?    published on 22 December 2011


Does the concept of thematic networks have a place in the “analytical tool box?”  published 24 December 2011

Dr. Jones does not address the issue of thematic networks in his book, but I still think they have a place.  In the blogs noted above I showed how the creation of a visual “thematic network” can assist in organizing data we obtain from an oral interview which often seems disconnected and haphazard even when using structured questions.  If we ever watch NCIS, or CIS or Rosselli & Isles, visual thematic networks are often pictured…..they are the big walls that have all pertinent crime data collected to date posted on a wall so the crime solvers can see all the myriads of clues in a single visual scan.  The crime solvers start grouping and eliminating suspects and irrelevant information as they assess other information that is more pertinent to solving the crime.  All is posted on the wall–they are correlating the evidence!  Are we so different?  Perhaps if you have a particularly tough “brick wall” you might consider such a wall.

I would like to come up with a new name for this wall; how about, BRICK Wall for “Better Research In Correlation of Kin” Wall!!  🙂

If thematic networks are already in our “analytical toolbox, what other tools does Dr. Jones put into the box?

ANALYSIS: Analysis according to Dr. Jones is the in-depth look at the source.  He analyzes the source, the information it provides and applies the Process Map [3].  What is the quality of that source?  biased?  manipulated?  an index (derivative) or and original?  If an authored work, what standards did the author use in the compilation and conclusion making?  We, too, can analyze the source and the information it contains for its validity.

CORRELATION: Dr. Jones adds narrative discussion, lists, timelines, tables and maps to our toolbox, and then illustrates ways to analyze the information we have to determine if it rises to the level of evidence, either direct or indirect.  These, too, can go into our own analytical tool box.

I had not analyzed my sources with any discipline before engaging in the exercises in the book, except at the most superficial way, as in “Yeah!  They have the microfilms of that parish’s records.”

I didn’t even think about the differenty types of tools to use for correlations: narrative or lists, which I have not consiously done.  I also had not specifically thought of how maps, tables and timelines contribute to my analytical tool box but I use them frequently.   As a visual person, I gravitate towards these tools.  I will normally put information into a table, sometimes even when a narrative would do.

post-it exercise 2So I would like to propose that before we do a Research Plan, perhaps a “BRICK Wall” would be a good place to start.  This would allow us to move information around and put it in the most logical order.  It should be dynamic–as we gain information, it should be posted on the wall.  the earlier we start with such a wall, probably the better; however, we might find ourselves in an intractable position with a problem well into the analysis and this tool might “rescue” us from what seems to be an intractable problem.  The BRICK Wall would also have the advantage of assisting us in the writing of the report as well (We’ll talk about that when we get to GPS Element 5: The Written Conclusion”.)  So if we are having problems with organizing complex data for a proof; such a wall might help.  There are programs out there which create a virtual wall such as Scrivener.

I will be assessing my sources.  I will be think first about which is the best of many tools to use that assist in the correlation of my collected information and evidence. And, I will determine if a BRICK Wall is a good tool to use for my problem before I get too far in the process of conceptualizing the problem.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  I am working on the next SGS Bulletin, submitted by assignments for both ProGen and MGP, attended an PS-APG meeting on Family Search (check out their Terms and Conditions before you post your information, photos, videos etc. there).  I have not been working on my portfolio, other than indirectly through these classes.  Did some client work that I need to wrap up.  My aunt has yet to do the house plan exercise which I hope she will do soon.  Made very cute Halloween cookies! I have sent to USCIS requests for naturalization papers on my paternal grandfather and Pat’s paternal grandfather.  I got the C number from them ($20) and armed with his file number, made my request (another $20) for the portfolio on my grandfather before the government shut down.  Haven’t heard anything about Pat’s grandfather yet.  Haven’t received the portfolio yet.  Let’s hope this silliness is over soon.

[1] Board for Certification for Genealogists, “The Genealogical Proof Standard,” ( : accessed 13 October 2013).

[2] Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof, (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013) 53.

[3] Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 17: The Evidence Analysis Process Model,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( accessed 13 October 2013).

Research Plans! I have become a believer.

This past month the ProGen class has been working on Research Plans.  I got mine written and along the way I learned a lot about why people write them and their value.

I have not been a fan of research plans.  Recently I posted about them:

…and I received some great comments from Yvette!  Thank you.  Her comments illustrated how (and why) a research plan for a client is helpful.  In discussions with others in the class, a second scenario was presented.  One of the class members uses a very short (one page or less) research plan every time she is researching problem A and she runs into problem B.  Problem B could totally divert her from working on problem A. Instead, she quickly writes a research plan on problem B and move back to Problem A.  She stated sometimes she ends up with quite a stack of problem statements/research plans but at least she knows where the gaps are.

Pretty cool and probably obvious to many!  I have no clear system for tracking identified problems but ones that cannot be addressed at the moment.  This seems like a reasonable way to do it.

One of the common issues with the research plans of the class is that they ended up writing more of a report and less of a plan.  They incorporated the implementation of the plan as part of the plan.  It seems to me that  “A Plan” is strictly that….what you will do in the future to address the problem.  Even BCG when it requests the research plan, restricts it to one page (part of the document work segment.) Many of the commenters suggested alternative sources and places to look.  While this was helpful it didn’t address the effectiveness of the structure of the plan itself.  The lesson for me was to see how quickly I could write a research plan–the quicker I write them then the more likely I am to write many more.  I need to keep refining the process and worry less about the product.  I also learned that one type of problem, say document retrieval, might not elicit the need for a plan and others might vary in what is needed to include.

So if you care to look (and comment) here is my revised class submission:

2013 0327 research plan

(The client, whose name has been changed, approved the inclusion of this in my blog.)

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  submitted my assignment (took comments and revised it accordingly and that is what is posted here), participated in the group critique, got out a SGS newsletter (painfully), attended SGS Board meeting, got 2 more clients (!), got a request to present my Civil War Prisons presentation to SGS (end of April) and to present at the fall seminar. I also started researching doing house histories (I will blog about that soon), read Inheritance in America: from Colonial Times to the Present by Shammas (I’ll blog about that as well), skimmed The Law of Sexual Discrimination by Lindgren, and am in the midst of reading Visiting the Courthouse.  I found that my great grand uncle purchased a parcel of land using the Timber Culture Act, which I had never heard of; that’s a blog topic for the future as well.  I am starting the layout of the Spring SGS Bulletin, which must be published by the end of the month.  Whew!  It’s an over achiever month.

Have you done a research plan before?

I haven’t, not really.  The development of a research plan is our next assignment for the ProGen virtual study group.  I am  challenged by by the assignment because I have a hard time conceptualizing all the sources there could be for any particular problem. Yet, the development of a research plan is a component of the portfolio for BCG Certification with the transcription of the documents.  My anxiety over the assignment was increased when the class was referred to a research plan by Elizabeth Shown Mills which was 8 pages long!  I doubt my report of findings on the work I do related to the research plan will be 8 pages long.  (Anyone see the movie, The Paper Chase? 🙂 )

The link for the ESM research plan is:

I googled “genealogy research plans” and got articles about writing research plans but no real examples.  (Is this one of those things where we say we ought to do this but the reality is quite different?)  I even listed to a webinar concerning research plans which was more of a source cataloging spreadsheet system.

So….I asked two experts, Tom Jones and Craig Scott.

The issue of research plans was bothering me even last September when I was on the cruise.  I had drafted, what I thought, was a pretty good research plan.  I had my genealogical question, background information, an assessment, and I included likely sources, an assessment of the sources and some questions about what to do next.

Tom and Craig were consistent:  They both said I needed to reduce what I wanted to find out to a single measurable question and that their research plans only include some questions about what to do next and none of the other “stuff”.

The single question comment was very interesting…My focus was to “What could I find about the elusive Frederick Eilers, second husband of Ida (nee Van Hoorn) Berg.”  Both of them said that my question was too broad and must be modified to be measurable.  So I changed it to “What was the death date of Frederick Eilers, second husband of Eda/Ida Berg.”

My assignment will not measure up to outlined standards if I just include the research question and a list of possible places to look.  So, I will have to do more; but, I found it interesting what nationally known researchers do for a research plan.  I will also find it interesting to see what others in the class create.

I think the “bottom line” is that research plans vary widely. What you write depends on whether you are trying to glean all information from an historical document or whether you have trod the research path you are traveling before.  The problems may result in a plan that is 1 or 8 pages long depending on the scale of the problem.  I have decided to write a plan around a relationship that I am verifying. I’ll post what I end up with (or maybe after I incorporate some of the good ideas of the study group!).

Happy Hunting


What I have done since the last posting:  not much since it was just a few minutes ago…made breakfast,  pet the cat,  Packed book to send back to Amazon and remembered that one of my SF friends wants to hire me.  I will have to contact her.  Woo hoo!