Now is the time to set some genealogy research goals for the new year! What’s that you say? You haven’t done that before? Having research goals will help to keep you on track while forging through the jungle of genealogical information. If you haven’t got goals set up, it can be all too easy to find yourself following a random bit of info down an unrelated rabbit hole. Once down that hole, its hard climbing back out.
Sounds intriguing you say, but again, you’ve never set research goals? That’s where I come in! I’ll show you how and even have a nice little PDF to help you out as well.
Why setting Goals are important
Goals give you purpose. They help to inform the direction you will go. Goals simply help keep you on track. The storytelling meme below is a good illustration. Would you rather take the long way around or the more direct way?
The more direct way takes less of your valuable research time. The more time you have, the more time you can spend researching other people. Or writing your family narrative!
Remember me telling you that I had a little PDF to help you out? Well, this is it! When you are new to anything, having an aid or a cheat sheet to help you out is always nice to have. I will walk you through the steps to use the Genealogy Research Goal Planner, using two of my own goals as examples. By the end of this article, you will be able to use the planner to help set your own research goals.
What Is Your Vision
Start at the end. No, really. Think about what you want to accomplish. Then think about how accomplishing that goal will make you feel. How will your genealogical research, and your family tree, benefit from completing the goal? You can be as specific or general as you want.
For me, I wanted to learn more about my ancestors who came from Germany. My research would benefit by adding another generation to my tree, and by correctly identifying where my relatives came from in Germany.
In completing this goal, I think I would change by being more confident in researching records out of the country (something I haven’t done much of).
What Are Your Goals
Take some time to think about what you want to accomplish. Just like mapping out a road trip in the days before GPS, you need to figure out your route before you set off. Research goals are the same. If you are new to setting goals, start with something less complex.
I have space for two goals so you don’t get too overwhelmed.
My first goal was to identify the town in Germany my great great grandparents came from before they emigrated to the US. My second goal was to research an ancestor of mine, Marie Moller who was married to Jens, who came to America, but I know very little about her. Questions I have are: Did she make it to America with her husband? Did she die in Germany? If so when? I assumed she died before he came over. It would be nice to have her records a bit more fleshed out.
After I’ve identified the goals I want to achieve, I write down the steps needed to complete these goals. Remember, we are planning our route in the time before GPS.
My action steps for my first goal, identifying the town my great great grandparents came from, included research census records, finding birth certificates as well as interviewing my family related to that line.
My action steps for my second goal, to learn about Marie are to find a marriage license, and a death certificate.
Once the steps have been identified, you have plotted your course and now it’s time to get to work! This part of the planner will be the longest. This is where all the cool research comes in and you get to use your investigative skills like Sherlock Holmes! Just remember to be methodical. Use the space provided in the Goal Planner to document what you have and what you still need to find. That way, you can keep from repeating unnecessary research. No one likes to spend an hour finding something, then realizing they already found it a month or so ago!
I knew from previous research that my great great grandparents had sailed from Hamburg. Even though they sailed from there I thought it unlikely they lived there. I found a birth record for one of their children and listed Hamburg as their town. I was able to find a census record showing them living in Hamburg and an old sketchbook yielded more information to corroborate the birth certificate.
Moving then to Marie, I was able to find her marriage certificate between her and Jens Fink. While I’m still mining the document for information, it lists Jens’ parents and Marie’s parents. Only problem is I’m having to decipher German cursive writing. But I’m working on it! I also wanted to know what happened to Marie. You see, all my records up to this point led me to believe that she died before coming to America. I managed to find a ship manifest listing that she traveled to America with her children. Talk about a great find!
The next document I found was a death index with her name listed. This led me to the death certificate. She moved with her children to Chicago where her husband Jens was living and working. After 10 years of living here, she contracted Scarlet Fever and died in a hospital. A sad end to my research but I was able to find the information I was looking for.
You Did It!
Once you’ve met your goals it’s time to celebrate
Reflecting on your research is a great way to learn what worked and what to do differently next time.
My end result was I was able to determine that my great grandparents did indeed come from Hamburg, Germany. I was also able to capture the names of my 3X great grandparents and add another branch to my tree. I was able to research Marie and not only find her death date, but that she had made it to America and lived here for about a decade.
What helped me along the way was finding multiple documents to support the information I was researching.
What would I have done differently? Review other documents I collected before began my research. There have been a number of times where I have collected a document but didn’t mine it properly and I forgot that I already had corroborating evidence.
If you take time to layout your goals and your action steps it will keep you on track. Now that’s a happy new year!